Cameroon mass weddings aim to promote family values
YAOUNDE, Jan 13 (Reuters) Authorities in Cameroon have started organising mass public weddings when couples can marry for free to try to promote family values and provide what they say is a more secure environment to bring up children.
Some 52 couples, both Christian and Muslim, tied the knot in the central African country's first mass ceremony late on Thursday, overseen by council officials in the capital Yaounde in front of thousands of family, friends and on-lookers.
''Our aim is to grant the man and the woman legal status as husband and wife,'' said Suzanne Bomback, minister of Women's Affairs and Promotion of the Family.
''It is part of a mission to protect the rights of the family, to promote stability and peace within families.'' Traditional marriage ceremonies are so expensive that many couples do not get round to certifying their union, meaning the women and children cannot benefit from a range of legal rights.
''You have to give money to every member of your fiance's household: the father, mother, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers and cousins, to earn their support,'' said Patrice Djine, after formalising his 11-year old marriage at the ceremony.
''Then comes the bride price which is a heavy amount, and on the day of the marriage, you have to invite the whole village, feed them and make them drink properly,'' he said, before his wife thanked the authorities for organising the free event.
With polygamy legal in Cameroon, some men taking part in Thursday's ceremony hoped it would not be their last.
''I accept them with joy and an open heart,'' said Ali Abba Adji when asked by the local mayor whether he accepted the hands of the three women who stood next to him.
''I'm going in for polygamy. I'm looking forward to taking a fourth one,'' he added, raising his hands in the air as the crowd applauded.
REUTERS AKJ VC0835