Till wealth us do part: black women turn to divorce
Women are now more likely to file for divorce, and black divorcees are the dominant group, statistics show
Black women are increasingly taking control of their lives and destiny, which will account for the sharp rise in divorce initiated by them.
The review of marriages and divorces released by Statistics SA shows out of the 25,326 divorces granted in South Africa in 2016, about 12,954 were initiated by women compared with 8,651 initiated by men.
Even more telling is that black divorcees are now the dominant group.
“In 2003‚ 40% of the divorcees were from the white population group whereas 24.3% came from the black African population group. By 2016‚ 42% of the divorcees were from the black African population group and 24.8% from the white population group.”
And psychologists confirm: women are now more likely to file for divorce than stay in an unhappy marriage.
The latest report saw an increase in more black females initiating divorce as compared with males in the previous years.Psychology lecturer at Wits Dr Esther Price said the stigma of divorce is getting less, and it is now acceptable for a black woman to leave her marriage if she is not happy.
“Today, more women participate in the workplace and the economy. They are no longer dependent on their partners for the financial needs of them and their family,” said Price.
“Hence it is okay for them to leave whenever they feel they are not happy in their marriage. This is not just in South Africa; we are following a global trend where 70% of divorces are initiated by women who have gained financial independence.”
Jennifer Papers, a counselling social worker at The Family Life Centre in Johannesburg, said the push-and-pull power struggle has become a major factor in divorces among black couples.
“Women are now more liberated and successful, and it is sometimes difficult for men to accept. Culture has for decades dictated that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and her role was to please her husband,” said Papers.
“Having access to better education and higher-paying jobs have made it easier for women to leave the marriage when experiencing abuse, infidelity, financial problems or dissatisfaction.”The inability to communicate effectively contributes to the breakdown of relationships, because, traditionally, in black families children are often taught that raising their concerns or dissatisfaction is highly disrespectful, she said.
“Also, the misconception that a man should resolve marital issues at home rather than in seeking professional help is what contributes to the high rate of divorce.”
The report said many couples did not make it to their 10th anniversary and most divorces were among people who had married for the first time.
Historically, couples from the white population group dominated the number of divorces from 2003 to 2007. Thereafter‚ black African couples had the highest number of divorces up until 2016, according to the StatsSA review.Social worker Irene Motaung said that, based on her experience in mediation and couple counselling, black women are becoming more and more independent compared with past generations in which wives were totally dependent on husbands for maintenance.
“Black women are getting an education, are career-oriented, where before they were marriage-oriented.”
Because they are financially independent, and able to support themselves and their children, they have started to seek companionship and accountability from their husbands, she said.
“Failure of husbands to provide these emotional needs results in wives opting for divorce.”Single parenting is also starting to be acceptable in black community. “Black women are simply gaining their voice, which kind of shocks their male counterparts. An African culture of women silent and subordinate vs patriarchial behaviours is challenged by wives of this generation,” said Motaung.
The peak age group at divorce for husbands was 40 to 44 for all population groups‚ except for white men where the highest peak was from 45 to 49 years, according to StatsSA.
“In the case of wives‚ the peak age group for black African and coloured population groups was 35 to 39 years and the peak for Indian/Asian and white population groups was 30 to 34 years.”