According to the Marriage Statistics Brief 2020, there was a steady increase of 6,9 percent in the number of marriages for the period 2019 to 2020, which compares closely with 11,1 percent increase noted in the preceding period of 2018 into 2019. Marriage statistics provide insights into the formation of family units within a country, an important input into policy formulation and for legal and statistical purposes.
In Botswana, marriage is regulated by statute (Marriage Act 2001) and the only marriage that is recognised by the statute is that between persons of different sexes. A gradual change in the ages at which people seek to marry has been noted in most years between 2010 and 2020. This is supported by the minimal changes in statistics. The average age at first marriage for bachelors increased from 40 to 42 years between 2019 and 2020, while for spinsters increased from 35 to 36 years.
In 2020, however, the median age at marriage for both males and females was 40 and 35 years respectively. The high mean age at first marriage might be attributed to the “Re a Nyalana Programme” that encourages formalisation of partners who have been living together through common law marriage.
With regards to age differences among married couples, the statistics show that in 31,2 percent of marriages, the groom is older than the bride by 1 to 4 years. In 28,4 percent of the marriages, the groom is older than the bride by 5 to 9 years, showing that in the majority of marriages, the groom is older than the bride. Interestingly though, compared to spinsters, women who were previously married tend to marry men who are younger than them. Statistics show that 10,8 percent of grooms were younger than their brides whose marital status was spinster at the time of marriage. However, for brides whose marital status was divorcee or widow at the time of marriage, the figures were 20,6 percent and 26 percent respectively.
Of notable change during the 2020 period was the month of occurrence of marriages which took a different shape compared to previous years. The period between April and June 2020 recorded the lowest number of marriages, which was 600, less than half for 2019, which was 1,299. This was clearly due to the measures which were introduced by the government to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020 and countries, including Botswana, started to put measures in place to curb the spread of the virus. These included social distancing requirements, size limits on gatherings, and restrictions on travel. A spike, however, was noted in the period between October and December, which recorded 3,324 marriages, a thousand more than the average for previous years, which is 2,300.
The Marriage Act (2001) requires any person below the age of 21 years, not being a widower or widow, to present consent of parents or guardians in writing if they desire to marry. A couple desiring to marry is required to appear before a registration officer of any district together with their witnesses where the information to publish the Marriage Banns is submitted. While it will take time for the world to adjust to the effects of the pandemic, for marriages in Botswana it will take just a shift in the months that couples decide to marry.
This article was prepared by Data Collection & Analysis (DCA), a business market research and surveys firm. Feedback or inquiries can be relayed to 76 740 658/ firstname.lastname@example.org.