February 22, 2021

Government Moves to Legalize All Unregistered Couples Living Together

Trustworthy and indepth news stories are more important now than ever.
Support our newsroom by MAKING A CONTRIBUTION HERE
In bid to encourage couples in unofficial unions, such mass civil unions are regularly conducted in different parts of Rwanda

Government intends to change all laws that categorize civil unions as the only legally acceptable marriages, in bid to protect women access to property.

In new gender policy approved by cabinet on Friday last week, government also wants a change in the terminology of “informal unions/marriages” used on couples that live together without the official record usually provided at the sector level in a process known as “gusezerana”.

There, the prospective couple sign some form of marriage contract that determines, among other issues, the ownership of property. It is followed up the wedding ceremonies, if the couple wish and are able.

Article 17 of Rwanda’s Constitution of 2015 recognizes only civil monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as the only parties to this marriage with equal rights and duties during the subsistence of a marriage and at the time of divorce. As a result, over the years, all the existing laws and gender policies have been modeled to corroborate this constitutional provision.

The only legal provision that mentions the category of informal unions is Article 39 of Gender-Based Violence Law on “Legalizing unlawful marriages and common assets distribution”. Government now admits that this article alone has “proved insufficient to effectively ensure secure property rights for all women living in informal monogamous”.

Survey data by the National Institute of Statistics shows that 34% of couples live together without ‘gusezerana’. In some districts, the figures is much higher, for example 49.9% in Nyarugenge (urban Kigali) and 52.1% in Nyagatare, eastern Rwanda. In the new policy, government calls this state of affairs “alarming”.

Part of the reason for this high number of the so called ‘informal unions’, says government, is the “resistance of men in informal unions to formalize their unions.”

With this situation, say the authorities, it is the women that end up suffering more of the consequences. Now, the government wants these so called “informal marriage” to be called “consensual or de-facto unions” in the laws.

“Though a lot has been done to insure matrimonial property rights of all citizens, the legal framework has so far proved insufficient to effectively ensure secure rights for women living in informal unions,” says the government’s new policy paper.

Among ideas the government plans to implement is setting a timeframe after which the union of couples living together for a given period, their relationship automatically becomes a legally binding marriage.

Just for illustration, for example, it could be stated that once a couple has lived together for 10 years, then their union is legally binding.

A report by the Africa Land Policy Centre released in December 2019 showed that only Rwanda and five other African countries were on course to towards securing land rights to at least 30 per cent of their women by 2025.

Women on the continent, the report said, are not adequately represented nor do they meaningfully participate in land governance processes as women are typically not considered as the public face of the family and land administration is a public activity.

In 2017, African governments adopted a resolution to grant documented land rights to at least 30 per cent of their female populations by 2025.

Going forward, here are the proposals due for implementation about the issue in the new Rwanda gender policy.

  • Elaboration of new laws and review of existing ones in regard to informal unions taking into account Rwanda’s socio-cultural context.
  • Continue sensitization on the benefits of registration marriages as the best options of spousal relationships and on changing mind set around social cultural factors such the pressure from the society and the family requesting girls to get married living them with limited choice of whom to marry.
  • Revise and make effective Article 39 of GBV Law on “Legalizing unlawful marriages and common assets distribution” by availing the related long-awaited Ministerial Order by Ministry of Local Government or another specific legal provision.
  • Review the definition of such informal unions/marriages from unlawful as stated in most of the existing legal framework to informal; consensual or de-facto unions.
  • Explore the option of establishing a certain period of time upon which couples cohabiting in informal monogamous unions might be officially recognized as formally married considering the pull factors that are mainly beyond the control of women and girls, and the resistance of men in informal unions to formalize their unions.

We can't do quality journalism without your support

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue are declining, The Chronicles remains committed to "Serving Your Right To Know The Truth". Stand with us as we document Rwanda's remarkable journey for you and the future generation. Do you value our journalism? We can't do it without you. Show us with your support by CONTRIBUTING HERE.
Email your news TIPS to info@chronicles.rw or WhatsApp +250788351327.
You can also find us on Signal


  1. Superb blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of
    any forums that cover the same topics discussed here?

    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get responses
    from other experienced people that share the same interest.

    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Thank you!

  2. Usually I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and
    do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me.
    Thank you, very great post.

  3. Whats up this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if
    blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  4. Hi! I just wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you have got here on this post. I’ll be returning to your website for more soon.

  5. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was
    extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I
    wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger
    but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any
    tips and hints for inexperienced blog writers?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.

  6. That is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!

  7. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having difficulties with your
    RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody getting
    similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *