By Mike Kamau Mundia
Is the Institution of Marriage on it’s “death bed” globally? Is love “dead”?
The Institution of Marriage is in a crisis globally. Marriages continue to collapse globally at alarming rates because of no proper groundwork or commitment. Marriage has actually become little more than a “fashion statement” or little more than a “status symbol.”
What should be the way out the crisis in the Institution of Marriage globally? Should we dispense with “romance” and revert back to arranged marriages globally?
Marriage has very real challenges & demands, and too many of us are rushing into marriage without proper thought, proper conviction, or proper preparation.
In the olden days in many communities worldwide, when a child was born, his or her destiny was shaped by society e.g. his or her upbringing, what he or she would be brought up to be, and who he or she would get married to.
Boys time with their grandfathers & girls time with their grandmothers, in a good number of communities around the world. These were bonding sessions in which both genders were taught life lessons, and the older & older both genders grew, the more & more both genders got more elaborate life lessons & training.
Amongst the Kamba of Kenya, for instance, the legend goes that in the olden days, Kamba boys & Kamba girls were trained on sex by their grandparents. Grandmothers would train their granddaughters on “how to perform” in bed and grandfathers would also equally train their grandsons on “how to perform” in bed. And these sessions were elaborate & even involved “road tests,” according to legend.
The legend goes that amongst the Kamba in the olden days, there were no virgins, male or female, even before both genders got to puberty, let alone teenagehood. It was considered very very strange in the olden days among Kambas, for a Kamba boy or a Kamba girl to have been still a virgin at the “very advanced age” of 15 years. Maybe this is why in the 1960s, the 1970s & the 1980s, Kamba men & Kamba women were known for their prowess in bed.
The legend goes that this was also also the case, in the olden days, among the Baganda of Uganda and among Rwandans, which would also explain why Rwandan men & women, and Baganda men & women were known for their sexual prowess in the 1960s, the 1970s & the 1980s.
In the 1980s, when there was conflict in Uganda, “Drum East Africa” ran an interesting feature. The feature was on Ugandan exiles in Kenya at the time, fleeing the conflict in Uganda. Female Ugandan exiles in Kenya at the time, fed up with the conflict in Uganda, resolved to deny their men sex, until they worked towards bringing lasting peace to Uganda. For a period of time, Ugandan men thus resorted to cohabiting with Kenyan women, but quickly rushed back to their Ugandan women, saying that Kenyan women were “tasteless” & not fun in bed, that Kenyan women did not have the “spice, style, creativity, dynamism, liveliness, dexterity & athleticism” in bed, that Ugandan women had.
The Ugandan women, according to the feature, still insisted, “No peace in Uganda, no sex.” The article was written soon after then Ugandan President, Gen. Tito Okello, and then Ugandan rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) leader, Yoweri Museveni, had signed a peace agreement in Kenya in December 1985, so the gist of the article was that the sex boycott by the Ugandan women had worked.
But the training on matters sex, did not just revolve around “having fun” or “one night stands.” Girls were also taught how to manage their fertility cycles. Boys were also trained to appreciate & respect girls & women, respect that a girl & a woman was not “always in the mood,” and respect & uphold this.
Life is not about sex alone yes, and there is much more to life than just sex. Both genders were trained about child rearing, the equivalent e.g. of attending to an unwell infant, and the equivalent also, in those days, of e.g. changing nappies.
One classic and memorable rite of passage was among the Maa of Kenya and Tanzania, where young Maa males had to kill a lion to graduate from being a “boy” to a “man,” which no doubt explains why the Maa were a lethal fighting force as a tribe in ancient times, because lions are swift, agile, powerful & deadly animals that can kill in an instant, remembering that in the olden days, all that the Maa had were spears, shields, remarkable in-house training, remarkable dexterity, and remarkable courage.
Here in Kenya, the formal education module is 16 formative years in primary school, secondary school & tertiary training i.e. 8-4-4, yet not a single year (and one year alone anyway would be insufficient), is set aside for training both genders on future likely roles in marriage. Is it therefore any wonder that the Institution of Marriage is in such a crisis here in Kenya? We are adept at many things in Kenya, we have proficiency, knowhow & technical skills in many areas in Kenya, but marriage and family is not one of them, yet marriage and family are the basic molecular unit for a well functioning society.
It is not enough to lay blame on the Government, any Government, for the crisis in the Institution of Marriage, because ultimately the People are the Government, and the Government is the People. It is a people ultimately, any people, that chart their destiny and direction.
Probably the best example of this in history is that of Jesus of Nazareth, the outspoken firebrand radical left leaning Marxist-Leninist revolutionary, who fronted a broad based reform agenda (a pacifist one, not a militant one), anchored in areas such as wealth redistribution, egalitarianism, equality and equal opportunities for all, universal healthcare, labour reform, universal housing, good governance, participatory governance, and accountability, but how did society respond to the iconic reform agenda fronted by Jesus of Nazareth? We lynched him, all of us without exception, because we were accessories, before the fact and after the fact, in the fabricated charges that led to his execution. If we had really cared, we would have stood by and fully supported the cause that Jesus of Nazareth fronted and stood for, and we would not have accommodated his cold blooded execution on trumped up charges.
We stood by as he was led to the gallows, and we still continue to stand by as the Institution of Marriage, and society in general, continue to spiral out of control.