from family, friends and society.
Nearly 25 percent of women ages 15 to 49 have never married, according to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. And 13 percent are divorced, separated or widowed.
The proportion of married women decreased from 49 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion of those cohabiting rose from 14 percent to 27 percent.
Meanwhile, 38 percent of men between 15 and 49 have never married. The number of married men declined from 50 percent in 2006 to 41 percent in 2011, most noticeably among men under 25.
Traditionally, Ugandans have considered being single to be a bad omen, says Godfrey Waiswa, 62, an opinion leader representing the elderly in the subcounty administrative council of Massaja, a suburb of Kampala.
“Being single has never been a good thing,” he says. “The community tries to help those who were not able to find spouses on their own.”
Waiswa says that all people should get married.
“Marriage is the oldest institution,” he says. “People should all go there. If there was no marriage, where would children come from?”
Waiswa defines marriage as a man and woman living together as husband and wife.
“If a man and a woman are living together as husband and wife, then they are married,” he says, “whether they have had a church wedding or conducted a traditional marriage or not.”
He says that polygyny, the practice of men having more than one wife at one time, is also common.
In Uganda, 25 percent of married women are in a polygynous union, according to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. This has declined from 32 percent during the past decade.
Waiswa says that by age 30, all young people should be married. Those who don’t marry suffer discrimination in Uganda’s conservative society.
“The average age at which Ugandans get married is 18 to 25 for the girls and the boys,” he says. “The girls are all expected to be married by the time they are 30 years of age. Otherwise, they will not be respected in society.”
But this is changing among young, educated and urban Ugandans.
Hilda Twongyeirwe, a women’s rights activist and coordinator of FEMRITE Uganda Women Writers’ Association, a local nongovernmental organization, says that more Ugandans are becoming open-minded about marriage, especially people younger than 40 and who attain higher education . This is a departure from older generations, who still view single life negatively, she says.
“Marriage is still considered important, but it is not a priority,” she says.
She says that educated people pursue careers, so they now delay marriage or choose not to marry at all. She also attributes the shift in marital views to increased foreign influence.
“From the late ’90s, there was a lot of interaction between Ugandans and other nationals in schools, workplaces, churches and markets,” Twongyeirwe says. “They learnt from others’ different perspectives about marriage.”
More women than men are single