Some Zambians have cited social media as one of the main reasons a lot of marriages are breaking down, in the wake of alarmingly high levels of divorce in the country.
In the past 5 years, over 61, 000 divorces have been granted in local courts, according to the country’s justice minister, Given Lubinda, who said in parliament, recently, that social media abuse was one of the causes.
“Madam Speaker, indeed, there were many more divorce petitions that were granted through local courts than were granted through the High Court.
There are many causes for these divorce cases. However, under the Zambian law, there is only one ground for divorce, and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. That is the only ground on which a court can grant a divorce petition.
The causes for the marriage breaking down irretrievably are numerous. I ought to hasten to mention that in Zambia, like in many other jurisdictions, unfortunately, some of the technological advancements that people are supposed to be benefiting from have become causes of the breakage of marriages,” said Lubinda.
He went on to say, ‘in this particular case, social media platforms had become sources of conflict in marriages.’
“This is a very unfortunate development. In local courts as well as in the High Court, a number of divorce petitions that are registered have to do with the abuse of social media, “, he claimed.
Cases where couples have used social media as a reason for breaking up, include one involving a 25-year-old man, who divorced his wife after finding romantic messages she had been sharing with her boyfriend on her mobile phone’s WhatsApp.
Another, was where, a 40-year-old man told a court in the capital, Lusaka, about how he had to hire an IT expert to hack into his wife’s phone and record all conversations she had, with different men.
Some residents feel couples are not paying much attention to each other because they spend too much time on social media, adding that such platforms have made it easier to cheat.
Some social media users, say more relationships are formed online, with marriages quickly entered into, before the couples know each other well enough and negative traits only appear late, after commitments have been made, leading to early separation/divorce.
“We are a more connected society now, than before. With social media, one can start a relationship in the Morning, meet in the Afternoon and wind down the day with sin. Most of these activities are documented on the web and heavily being used as evidence in courts,” social media user, Bwembya Chitimukulu, laments.
“While internet has many benefits, it has made sin easy,” he adds.
For Jay Phiri, this issue is too close to home, because that has been his experience, as he divorced due to, among other reasons, social media. Even though he can not disclose much, the impact that this has had, is evident.
“I have no further words about this issue because I’ am a victim,” is all he can say.
Seeking virtual solutions for real life situations
Chichi Chilinda, feels the culture of people posting their marital issues online, instead of seeking help from real and genuinely concerned experienced people, does not help the situation, while Linda Kachaka feels a lot of people want to copy and paste social media and TV series behaviours into marriage.
Measures needed to address the situation
The Zambia National Men’s Network for Gender and Development, through its national coordinator, Nelson Banda, has since expressed the need for a probe into these divorces, saying the rates are a source of concern, especially for a small population such as Zambia’s.
‘United families are a bedrock of any strong nation and development’, Banda says, adding that measures need to be put in place to address these divorces.
The solutions, according to the Movement for Promoting National Values and Principles (MPNVP), who attribute the high divorce rates to several other factors, include, courts not granting divorce at first instance, until after enough attempts have been made, the church intensifying the need to focus more on family values and having both print and electronic media programmes and articles that focus fully at helping families and couples.
They also point to the need to have mature people within communities, who should prove helpful in rendering advice and counsel to new couples within neighbourhoods.