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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Who should decide who you marry?
This week's debate on BBC Africa Live is inspired by one of the winners in the BBC's annual African playwriting competition.

Johnny and Michelle Gaye
Johnny and Michelle married after courting over the telephone

The third-placed play, The Commodity, tells the story of a man who is looking for the best financial deal he can get for his daughter's hand in marriage.

Arranged marriages are common in Africa, and take many forms across the continent.

But should parents be so involved in who their children marry? And is it right that there should be financial considerations when choosing a prospective husband or wife? Are you a parent who believes you should have a say in your child's marriage?

Are you unmarried and wishing your parents would let you make your own decisions? If you are in an arranged marriage, how has the experience been for you?

At the heart of the play, is the father's exasperation that his daughter is 20 years old and still unmarried and living at home.

Can you understand his point of view? What is the best age to get married and why?

Join the BBC Africa Live debate on Wednesday 13 April at 1630 GMT & 1830 GMT. Please use the form to send us your comments - some of which will be published below.


I wish my mum had more of a part in the selection of at least one of my husbands.
Anon

As a middle aged woman who has had two failed marriages - and I selected the spouses myself - I am not too sure whether or not the parents should not have any say! To be honest, the final decision should be left up to the couple. However, I now wish that my mum had more of a part in the selection of at least one of my husbands.
Anon,

I'm yet to marry but my parents are not going to decide who I should marry. That is quite out dated.
Prince Ikechukwu, Nigeria

I believe marriage should be based on love. However the consent of both parents is very important since they will support you in times of problem. Again it gives them the honour to be part of an important step in their children's life.
Akos, Ghana

A union between families, societies and can also mend diplomatic ties between two countries.
Dr. Christopher Enakpene, Germany

Marriages should not be viewed as just between two people alone, but a union between families, societies and can also mend diplomatic ties between two countries. However, the final decision should be left to the couple.
Dr. Christopher Enakpene, Germany

I know a situation where a young educated woman was forced into marriage by her parents with disastrous consequences. She and her husband never loved each other and they are both in loving relationships, with other people.
Abiba, UK

I feel it's a plus to have somebody to guide you get the best in life. African marriages should not be confused with European marriages because in Africa marriage is not about two people in love but two families coming together.
Kamfwa Musongo, Netherlands

Too many marriages especially in the USA fail because younger couples go into hasty marriages.
Aileen Das, USA

There should be no set standard of appropriate age but rather the consideration whether you are mature enough and ready for it. Too many marriages especially in the USA fail because younger couples go into hasty marriages to avoid the stigma of being over 30 and still unmarried.
Aileen Das, USA

I don't understand why this debate is only brought up in reference to Africa. Don't arranged marriages permeate upper and middle class Europe today? Every kind of marriage is like the lottery. Arranged or not, there's a huge element of luck in finding the right person. As far as age goes, I think people should marry when THEY are ready.
Ngum Ngafor, England

Marriage should be a contract between a man and wife. However, I think that it is also a contract between two families. Parents always want the best for their kids. Choosing a wife or husband for their kids is a dangerous idea. I think that marriage should be based on how much the partners understand and love themselves.
Iyke, US

I come from India where arranged marriages are common and have seen also the trend of love marriages falling apart if parents' support is not there. I am a parent and wish heartily that my children would consult and follow my advice while he or she marries. As said before financial consideration is a must while choosing a prospective husband or wife as rosy things disappear and stark realities require money to live.
Chithra, India

Good parenting will end up helping a child to choose someone with like beliefs and one that will inherently fit in with their own family.
Kathleen Germain, US

I know that I am biased in my opinion about arranged marriages because of how I was raised. Good parenting will end up helping a child to choose someone with like beliefs and one that will inherently fit in with their own family. Birds of a feather flock together.
Kathleen Germain, US

I personally made my choice and last October presented the lady to my family for traditional marriage and today we are married. If a man educates his or her parent and shows them he is responsible, I think parents will not differ with their choice.
Nfor Hadison, Cameroon

At 18 you are an adult yet it is still too young to get married. However I do not feel that it should be someone else's choice as to whom I marry or when if I am a consenting adult. Parents should stay out of it after their child is over 25.
Lori Hullen, USA

There are too many early marriages these days and that is why we have 30 year old divorcees!
Pacharo Kayira

Am a 28 and single. I will have the final say as to who I will marry. My parents, close relations and my pastor will be briefed on my intentions but that is it! As to who spends the rest of her life with me, the buck stops here. On the right age to marry, I would say 20 is too early. There are too many early marriages these days and that is why we have 30 year old divorcees!
Pacharo Kayira, Malawi

Parents should let their children marry independently with only parental guidance. Let the parent know who their child is marrying and only counsel the child along to a happy marriage.
Juliet Nabwire, Uganda

I think this is a question to be decided by the couples themselves. Whether they want their parents to be involved or not must be a matter of choice for them to decide.
Mustapha Kah, Serrekunda, The Gambia

My view is that people should be reasonable and willing to make their arranged or not arranged relationships work. I would be happy myself to get a wife's proposal through the post.
Gandalino Yalo, Angola

I will marry a man who will be able to provide me with three meals a day.
Dineo, Botswana

Now I am 29 and still looking, and I feel I am old enough now to choose the man to marry without the assistance of my parents. The best age to marry should be 30 - 35 years! I will marry a man who will be able to provide me with three meals a day, I will want my current lifestyle to continue or even go up but not go down.
Dineo, Botswana

There is a saying when you marry someone, you marry the whole package including your spouse's family. If they are not happy, there is no way that the couples can be happy. Besides, in times of trouble your parents are the best people to fall back on.
Dee, UK

I am of the view that parents should let their children choose for themselves whom they want to get married to. Financial considerations should be discouraged as this in most cases becomes a blocking factor for those who can not afford. And the result is that a daughter ends up marrying some man she does not really love. And marriages with this background do not last.
Charles Munamie, Malawi

Parents should not force their children into arranged marriages.
Koku Quist, Ghana

Even though arranged marriages have for a long time been the practice in Africa, times have changed and we should be prepared to change with the times. Parents should not force their children into arranged marriages but rather leave the children to come up with their choices and then counsel the children before they marry.
Koku Quist, Ghana

I would hate it if my parents were to choose who I get married to. What my father did was advice me to get married to the lady I was involved with and I liked the fact that it was a lady I had chosen myself. As a responsible father, he even helped me pay bride price (lobola) for my wife.
Bongani, SA

Here in Hargeisa, arranged marriages have been fading with modernisation, leaving behind the problem of divorce. Many marriages I have seen went a head without either parents knowing but when divorce comes that is when parents are involved.
Halima Abdi, Somaliland

If we define love and marriage in the right context then most of our parents did not have loving, healthy relationships. What do they do? They go ahead and structure their children's marriage to go the exact, loveless, ritualistic pattern of marriage they and their parents before them had.
Chike, Nigeria

Parents usually know who the smooth players and conmen are.
Mathias Daffa, Tanzania

Why is the rate of divorce increasing in Africa? It's because of love at first sight which is in most cases infatuation, after a few years the couple finds that they are not made for each other: Parents usually know who the smooth players and conmen are hence they can accurately predict a marriage that will last long.
Mathias Daffa, Tanzania

My parents will never even think about choosing a wife for me. They trust and understand my intelligence very well. However I will never marry a lady who does not get along with my parents! While dating, I want to see my girl joke and laugh with my mum. I want to see them plaiting each other's hair, relaxed and fooling around. My parents body language will tell me whether she's the one or not!
Kamau Muchugi, Kenyan in the UK

My grandfather arranged the marriage of my first aunt. She said she was upset, cried a lot and cursed him. So, he resolved never to do it again. This meant three of my other aunts had to find their own husbands. Those three aunts are very bitter about it today. They feel it was unfair of grandfather not to find them good husbands also, because all three divorced and remarried more than once. The one who had an arranged marriage, stayed with her husband and are still together after almost 40 years of marriage.
Susan, Zimbabwe

According to nature, most human beings develop common sense at the age of 18.
Dandawe, US

Any person who reaches the age of adulthood should choose his or her own partner. Most Africans especially women get married before the age of 18. According to nature, most human beings develop common sense at the age of 18.
Dandawe, US

What a good parent should do is to make inquiries about the family their son or daughter is marrying to. They should advice their children but not decide for them.
Victor Okonkow, Cameroon

In the Africa continent, due to low or poor standard of living as a result of unfavourable state of the country's economy, most men get married late, between 27-34 years of age while most ladies do at the age of 23 or 27. The case is quite different from other continents where the economy is more favourable, men and ladies get married earlier.
! Ikpefua Sunday, Nigeria

I would enjoy my parents' comments and would respect their decision if they felt a man was not the right one for me. It can save one a heartache.
Stephanie W, USA

Parents can only act in an advisory capacity and not to choose partners for their children.
Benny Nwokeji, Nigeria

Really, 20 is not too early for marriage if the girl is mature though very few people are at that age. But I believe parents can only act in an advisory capacity and not to choose partners for their children.
Benny Nwokeji, Nigeria

I don't believe in arranged marriages. However, I would like to know who my child is going out with. I would nag my child into dropping his or her partner if it turns out that they are not a desirable character. How could I watch unconcerned when my child is going out with a jail bird, for instance, or a drug addict, or a serial murderer? Do you want me to keep quiet? Most young people date with their hearts, leaving their heads out of it.
Ben Obeng, USA

Parents should play a role in deciding who their children marries. Most Children who married against parental consent are suffering regret today. There is an Africa proverb that says: What an Adult can see sitting, a Child can not see it standing.
Simon Nkemakolam, Senegal

I have a boyfriend, who is African. His family, including his cousins, however, severly condemned the fact that we even started to go out for a while. That happened because all of his families are supposed to get married with someone their parents decide. But, marriage should be something you decide on your own.
Akiko, Japan

A selection of your comments:

Parents can only counsel their children on how to chose a wife or a husband but cannot decide for them.
Omorodion Osula, USA

I am a parent but I am not going to be involved in whom my children choose to marry when they are ready. To the best of my knowledge, marriage is a thing of a life time. And as such, either the man or the woman should decide whom he or she wants to marry. Parents can only counsel their children on how to choose a wife or a husband but cannot decide for them. Also, they can help to investigate the kind of family their son or daughter is marrying into just to ensure that it is a good family. Regarding age, I think, the appropriate age for marriage is 25 because marriage is demanding and involves a lot of maturity. Finding a wife or husband is not like buying grocery from the shop. It takes the grace of God to find the right partner.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA.

Arranged marriage has no place in the civilised world and that includes Africa. How does your father or mother know who you are in love with?
Blessing Akiri Young, Liberian living in US

I think arranged marriages shouldn't be practised in Africa. Let the couple decide if they suit each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Obviously the parents need to know the someone's background because no one wants their child to marry a criminal.
Sonia N. Rwandan in UK

I don't think my parents should get involved in whom I want to get married to. In this age, I find that to be totally absurd.
Gbenga , Nigeria

In Africa, marriage has always been seen as a union between two families, based on this, the families involved, are always expected to have a say. This is based on the fact that Africa is a society of virtues, most families feel that they have a name to protect, and will want to know the 'family' their daughter or son is bringing home. However modernity has reduced the influence of parents on choice of their children but has not totally stopped them from making their feelings known.
Ndubuisi Nwokolo, Nigeria/Belgium

I believe that love reigns supreme and no matter who the child chooses to marry, the parents should accept and support it. People in relationships that were not created by them have a tendency of resenting the relationship and the parents who put them into it.
Dorothy, USA

Of course parents should be involved. After all, you not only marry the person but also his or her family as well. However, I believe that parents should also respect their children's wishes and not force them to marry someone they cannot tolerate.
Pattia, 28, US

For a long time in most African communities, parents believe that having a daughter and subsequently raising her up is an investment which must be paid back. Unfortunately pay back time comes at the marriage stage with the bride price being overly exageratted. Though the practice is cultural, it must not be abused by parents. Financial considerations should fall at the bottom of priorities in African marriages.
Nkonge Felix, Zambia

The concept of marriage based on "love" as understood by Europeans, is alien to Africans
Abdulai Musa, Nigeria

At 19, I met, courted and "married" a girl I met in Lagos. However, six years later, the "marriage" was annulled by my parents on many grounds. I later married a girl chosen by the family for me, and we have lived happily together for 21 years now. The point of all this is this: the concept of marriage based on "love" as understood by Europeans, is alien to Africans. Marriage in Africa is not necessarily between the two people involved, but between families. There are many reasons for this. Whereas European couples are expected to stay together until death do them apart, Africans revert to their individual families upon the death of one of the couple or in old age.
Abdulai Musa, Nigeria

Parents should be involved in their children's marriages in so far as they are the custodians of their children; nevertheless, with the shift in cultural practices and the change in perception of the current generation, parents should give their children room to make their own decisions. A delicate balance should be found between the parents' responsibility to their children and the children's right and the freedom of choice.
Mulula Miyanda, Lusaka, Zambia

Let a he dog sniff its own she dog
Reinford Mwangonde, USA

"Let a he dog sniff its own she dog". This is how best I can express my point of view. I have seen friends get involved in arranged marriages that have not lasted more than 3 years. I agree that parents should have a say about who their children should marry, but that they should not make the final decision. What would my parents say if I told them that the person they wanted me to marry has given me HIV/AIDS?
Reinford Mwangonde, USA.

An arranged marriage? That in Kenya happens only when forced by traditions or religion. But for people like us who have been born and brought up in Nairobi rarely! Twenty is too young to get married! Let the lady take her time. I'm 27 and still searching.
Anita Onuko, Kenya

I think you should decide who you marry! Its not right for someone to choose your partner. In my opinion it would be wrong if you didn't love the person you married. You would dread every minute of your life!!!!
Christine Banks, United States

The decision should be left with the parties involved - the man and the woman after they have both seek the face of God to know if they are meant for each other.Placing the decision in the hands of the parents could end in regrets as some parents are materialistic.
Kunle Adeogun, UK

I used to think that arranged marriages were gradually disappearing in my country. Recently, I discovered that it was coming back forcefully
Michel Tchoumbou, Cameroon

I used to think that arranged marriages were gradually disappearing in my country. Recently, I discovered that it was coming back forcefully. Surprisingly, even more among Africans living abroad. The women and their familes themselves, being poor and dreaming of a better life overseas can hardly say 'no'. From my experience most of such unions do not last. Nevertheless, I have also seen successes in arranged marriages today, people that gradually get to know each other in marriage and live happily.
Michel Tchoumbou, Cameroon

I think children should decided who they marry, not their parents. If it turns out they made the wrong choice, they will have themselves to blame for it. The parents should only act as counsellors when it comes to their children making such decisions
Chinedu, Jamaica

It's for the best for a father to choose who the in - law will be. In Africa, where there is no social security, it is the father's duty to make sure that his girl will be okay and that the person she's married with will be capable of taking care of her.
Fredy King, UK




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