On the 8th of March every year, the world stops to celebrate International Women Day. It was on the occasion of this year’s celebration that the Institute invited the general public to a lecture titled “Marriage in Nigeria: Issues, Problems and Prospects”. The renowned retired professor of Sociology of Education of the University of Lagos, Sarah Oloko, in delivering this lecture observed that marriage is closely related to the family. It is in marriage that a family is formed, and it is the family that promotes the values of marriage. The marriage bond, as ordained by God, is between a man and a woman, and binds until death.
Identifying in Nigeria four types of marriage (Customary, Islamic, Christian and Civil), Prof. Oloko argued that the institution of marriage has its benefits which includes, regulations of sexual impulse, establishment of the family, provision of economic co-operation and psychological welfare as well the promotion of social solidarity. Customary marriage is mainly exogamous (outside close family ties), she noted. It allows for polygamy and for female marriage (especially among the Igbos), seclusion for marital preparation (among the Efik), and endurance test (among the Fulanis). Noting that Islamic marriage, like customary marriage, is polygamous in nature; she equally observed that a key feature of Christian marriage is the mutual consent of the intending couple. Christian marriage is built on fidelity and indissolubility and is monogamous in nature. Civil marriage, she noted, requires full consent, frowns at under age marriage and promotes monogamous relationships.
According to Prof. Oloko, one issue confronting marriages in Nigeria today is polygyny. Polygyny spreads because of the preponderance of women in the society, men seeking economic advantage in their trades, men seeking to enhance their status, childlessness of first wife, desire for a son, desire for a large progeny, constancy of sex urge, and desire for variety. Covert polygyny, she argued, has become the order of the day in most Nigerian families. This is a situation whereby a married man still has other “wives” outside the official wife. These “wives” may or may not be known by the official wife. Consequently, this has serious implications for parental responsibility, in that the father will not be available to cater for the psychological needs of his children scattered over the place. Other problems confronting marriages in Nigeria include intrusion by extended family members and domestic violence.
In the light of these realities, the guest lecturer advocated for more robust training classes for intending couples on the institution of marriage, its challenges, and rewards. She encouraged couples to form associations where they can come to share the pains and joys of their respective marriages. She requested that the message of Amoris Laetitia be made available to couples to help them live a better married life. There is need for greater appreciation of the place and dignity of women in marriages, families and the society. Hence, Prof. Oloko encouraged all to promote the values of marriage as well as speak against the evils bedeviling marriage in our contemporary times