Importance/ Value of Marriage in African Traditional Society 

Importance/ Value of Marriage in African Traditional Society 

  • All Adults were expected to marry because marriage helped to fulfill the African cultural demands of every adult person to get married.
  • Marriage enabled the adults to have sex for pleasure leisure and enjoyment.
  • Marriage enabled the adult married people to share Love and intimate relations among themselves.
  • It was a must to marry because marriage extended relationship and friendship with other families and clans.
  • Marriage provided for the production of Children by the married couple hence expanding the family and the clan.
  • It earned the married people respect and prestige in the community because they were seen as responsible
  • All Adults were to marry because marriage enabled the Men to acquire Leadership positions in the society because of being able to lead their families.
  • Marriage promoted unity and cooperation among the members of the society who intermarried.
  • Marriage was compulsory because it enabled the married couple to receive gifts that congratulated them for that achievement.
  • Getting married promoted sexual morality in the society as all adults had sexual relations in marriage. Marriage that involved producing children helped to show that the couple was in a good health status.
  • It was a religious ritual that united the living with the ancestors hence providing blessings to the newly married couple.
  • Marriage enabled leaders to get Loyalty in their Leadership because they married from several clans. This prevented leadership conflicts.
  • Marriage provided for material wealth and property to the family to the girl through payment of bride price and that is why all adults were expected to marry.

1. “In traditional Africa, all adults were expected to marry. “Comment (13 marks) Approach:

The question wants the importance of marriage in traditional Africa to the extent that all mature people were supposed to get married.

Comparison between African Traditional Marriage and Christian Marriage
  • To a large extent, African traditional understanding of marriage is similar to that of Christianity as shown below:
  • In both, bride wealth/price before marriage is emphasized.
  • Both traditional Africa and Christianity call for permanence in marriage.
  • Both call upon the married couples to have sex regularly while in marriage.
  • In both, Virginity is emphasized before they both discourage fornication.
  • Both Christianity and African tradition encourage sex education before marriage.
  • Both believe that marriage is a scared institution.
  • Both call for marriage between man and Women i.e. theyemphasis that marriage should be hetero but not homo.
  • Both encourage pro-creation in marriage i.e. the encourage producing of children in marriage.
  • In both forgiveness and reconciliation in marriage is emphasized.
  • Both Christianity and traditional Africa call for proper upbringing of Children
  • Both believed that marriage is a sacred institution which every normal person must perform.
  • In both incest is condemned meaning that people should marry from another clan e.g. Paul condemned the man who slept   with his step mother, to be ex-communicated.
  • In  both marriage is seen as uniting  factor, and that is why in Genesis God said,   that  a man shall leave his parents  and unit with his wife  and the become one.
  • In both marriages is seen as a fulfillment of God’s command of companionship, love and procreation.
  • In  both, acts adultery and other unfaithful  cases  are punishable as a way of restoring the dignity of  the marriage institution.

However, to a small extent there are differences between African and Christian understanding of marriage as shown below;

  • In Christianity, man and woman are equal in marriage while in traditional Africa; man was superior to the woman in marriage.
  • Christianity calls for monogamous marriage while African tradition called for polygamous marriages.
  • In African traditional society, child bearing was compulsory while in Christianity, it is optional.
  • Christianity calls for church marriage while African tradition calls for customary marriage.
  • In African traditional society, inheritance of widow was allowed while in Christianity, it is condemned.
  • In African tradition, sex was offered for hospitality in marriage while in Christianity, it is regarded as sexual immorality.
  • In some African societies like among the ancient Bahima and Tutsi, marrying of close relatives was allowed while in Christianity, it is seen as incest and therefore a sin.
  • In African tradition, divorce was allowed on grounds of adultery while in Christianity, reconciliation is called for instead of Divorce 
  • In African tradition, they believed that marriage had to be blessed by the ancestors to be stable while in Christianity,is blessed by God.
  • In African traditional society, a wife wasregarded as a family/clan wife while in Christianity, she is a personal wife.
  • In traditional Africa, the marriage partners were chosen by the parents/elders for their children while in Christianity, it is a personal choice.
  • In Christianity, Baptism is a condition for one to attain church marriage while in traditional Africa, initiation rituals like circumcision was acondition for one to get married.
  • In African traditional society, marriage was within their cultural tribal settings while in Christianity mixed marriages are encouraged.
  • In African traditional society, marriage was compulsory while in Christianity, it is optional especially those who are to serve God whole heartedly.

1.  To what extent is African traditional understanding of marriage similar to Christianity? (25 marks) Approach:

It is a two sided question. The large extent part needs the similarities between the Christian and traditional African understanding of marriage. The small extent part needs the differences.

The Unmarried Life in Traditional African Society
  • They were considered to be social misfits in the society for failure to get married.
  • They were looked at as people who were cursed by the ancestors and therefore no need of respecting them.
  • They were seen as people who were still young and therefore couldn’t even hold any leadership position in the society.
  • The unmarried were seen as a source of evils in the society. I.e. when the society was faced with problems, they were attributed to the unmarried ones.
  • They could not be respected since they had no inheritance rights to property. I.e. they could not inherit their dead parents.
  • They were looked at as people who were impotent and barren and therefore not worthy respecting.
  • They were looked at as people who were against the natural Law of God i.e. Go and multiply and fill the earth.
  • They were not respected because even upon their death no single funeral rite could be performed for such people.
  • The unmarried were seen as people who were greedy and selfish and therefore could prepare their own meals.
  • They were seen as a loss and a disgrace to the society because of not producing children who were very important.
  • They were not respected because they could not enjoy the gift of sex since they did not have their own spouses.
  • They were under looked because even when they died, they were not mourned.
  • The unmarried were seen as people who were greedy and selfish and therefore could prepare their own meals.
  • The unmarried were undermined because they were seen as people who feared responsibilities in life.

1.  Why were the unmarried not respected in the traditional African society?


It wants the reasons why people who were not married yet mature were under looked and despised.

Revision question:

“Remaining unmarried was not acceptable in African Traditional society. “Comment (25 marks)

It is one sided question which wants reasons why remaining unmarried was not allowed in Africa Traditional society. The question basically needs the disadvantages of being unmarried and the advantages of being married.


  1. Unmarried life in African culture was considered a curse and people ensured that they married to avoid being seen sources of curses.
  2. The unmarried were also seen as a source of bad omen and they were avoided in society. The unmarried life was not accepted because even intiation rituals were organized to prepare people for marriage and rising of families.
  3. The initiates were strongly commanded to live under a solemn obligation   of getting married and they had to respect it.
  4. Africans also believed that God commanded them to marry and bear children hence a reason why being unmarried was not acceptable.
  5. Marriage was seen as a sacred duty for all Africans and therefore religious rites which all adults had to undergo.
  6. Remaining unmarried was seen as stopping the flow of life which was seen as evil.
  7. The unmarried were as rebels to culture and therefore Law breakers.
  8. The unmarried were known to be abnormal and half human and thus not complete people in Life.
  9. Refusing to marry was seen as a rejection of one’s culture and society and the society in return also rejected such a person.
  10. Marriage was considered a duty and an obligation for all with every one as an actor or participant
  11. Marriage which resulted into child bearing acted as medicine against a person with children did not die completely.
  12. Marriage was a religion for all and a source of blessings hence its being compulsory.
  13. Remaining unmarried was seen as being selfish and self-centered without regard for others.
  14. Elders took every concern to establish the causes of single life among adults to ensure that they married.
  15. Getting married attracted gifts such as Land, animals etc. which motivated all people to marry and this encouraged the adults to marry and get married.
  16. Sexual intercourse was strictly for the married and it was highly punishable among the unmarried and this encouraged the adults to marry.
  17. The unmarried could not inherit property or own property because they were seen as among the Baganda of central Uganda.
  18. They were seen as children however old or mature they were hence being called upon to marry in order to be seen as old.
  19. The unmarried did not hold responsible or leadership positions in the society.
  20. They were not also given respect or descent burials when they died and they were not mourned for.
  21. Upon death, the unmarried were not inherited meaning that they died completely.
  22. The names of the unmarried were not given to the new born babies in order to encourage people to get married.
  23. Getting married created unity and relationship among people and families and that is why remaining unmarried was not acceptable.
  24. Getting Married appeases the ancestors and that is why remaining unmarried was condemned in African Traditional society.

Leave a Reply

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