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Intermarriages are common in Botswana

Staff Writer
As interracial marriages between black and white couples become more and more common in Botswana, research has shown that there are solid reasons behind such relationships, and tongues are not so quick to wag as was the norm before.

In presenting the findings of a research on the topic, Dr Nomagugu Setlhare-Oagile of the University of Botswana revealed that the fact that there are more interracial marriages occurring in Botswana could be a reflection of a more open and thoughtful society. She said interviews conducted showed that Batswana are more tolerant of these unions than other African States. 

The study was titled 'phenomenological exploration of intermarriages between men of European/United States/Australian heritage and Batswana women of African heritage' presented at the first international conference of the Botswana Counselling Association.

Setlhare-Oagile said solid reasons cited during the research included genuine love, genuine interest in learning about different cultures and customs. She said other reasons mentioned were perceiving, believing and feeling that the stereotypes of certain racial and ethnic groups could be pleasing and arousing including the feeling and belief that the colour of someone's skin is irrelevant. 

To reinforce this statement one of the women said the attraction could have been with someone else but; "I felt attracted to him and nobody else at the time. So that's how it happened. And as to how I decided that I was going to marry him, in fact this man never asked me to marry him. We just knew that we were meant to be," Setlhare-Oagile quoted.

She said that counsellors, family therapists and those working in the personal social services would benefit from training, which develops a clearer understanding of the interplay of social and psychological factors affecting the well-being of the intermarriages and the children who result from them. She stated that the couples interviewed especially those with young children were concerned about their children's welfare.

"One of the women said their children are not considered white, they are not considered black. They are considered coloured in a demeaning way. I think that the thing is to let our kids know that they are interrace, they are both," Setlhare-Oagile said. She explained that the female interviewee explained that there is a challenge in

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Botswana where children are supposed to follow their father's tribe. "I think with those sort of things the children will face greater challenges from friends in school than us as a couple. But I think it is up to us to guide them to be strong individuals regardless of their colour, to say 'I have a black mother and a white father so I am mixed, you take it or leave it," Setlhare-Oagile reported.

She said the study supported the idea of developing theoretical models and designing programmes for working with intermarried couples. The purpose of the study was about understanding interracial couples and their experiences and challenging families and society to re-evaluate their attitudes towards interracial marriages.

According to the researcher nine couples participated in the study between the ages of 38 to 65 for the women and 38 to 59 for men.

On the education level, one out of nine women never went to college or finished high school as she quit school at form two. Four of the women hold diplomas and the other four hold Masters Degrees. Among the husbands one has a diploma, five hold bachelor's degrees and two have Masters Degrees, while one has a Ph.D.

All the couples met in Botswana except for one which met and married abroad. She however said the study revealed that the motivation for the men to migrate to Botswana ranged from boredom in their own countries and wanting out, visiting a relative in Botswana and deciding to live there to not wanting to be drafted into the army while some initially came as peace corps volunteers. "Regarding the unions, there was no motivation. Both partners met and fell in love," Setlhare-Oagile said.
She stated that the findings could not be generalised to all interracial marriages. "The couples were interviewed together and I believe that interviewing the spouses alone may have generated additional information that perhaps was not shared because the spouses were together," she said.



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