Nigeria has wed 500 people – half of them divorcees, widows, or young unmarried girls – in a bid to combat skyrocketing divorce rates there, reported Al Jazeera today.
The mega wedding in the district of Kano was not limited to mere matchmaking, however. The Nigerian government went all out, nanny-state-style, stocking newlyweds' cupboards with provisions of food, loading them up with furniture, and even giving them some financial assistance to make sure their martial lives would start off right, said Al Jazeera.
But if things don't go right, too bad. And if they decide they're not meant to be together forever, even more too bad. Getting hitched on the government's dime comes with a hitch of its own, according to Al Jazeera: no divorce without government permission. These couples are in it until the state do them part.
More from GlobalPost: WomanBeat: These potential prostitutes need jobs, not a mass wedding
The authorities are not the only ones concerned. The Nigerian Tribune today published a long analysis of the issue entitled "M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E: A failing institution?" in which the author argued that the growing influence of Western values has made divorce "the in-thing" in northern Nigeria, where one in three marriages fail.
Divorce rates there are among the highest in all of West Africa, and it's clear that couples there struggle for a variety of reasons. Many decide to marry in response to cultural or economic pressures rather than compatibility, a group of concerned lawyers said last month.
Then there's the whole personal happiness equation. Just last week, a man took his wife to court to demand a divorce because, as Nigeria's Daily Times delicately put it, "his wife refuses to perform her conjugal obligations."
Yes, indeed. Frustrated 49-year-old Gabriel Gbelelola told the paper that his wife "has denied me of my sexual rights for a while now."
"She is not submissive at all and when I report her to her family, they usually take side with her," he complained.
For her part, Gbelelola's wife insists her husband already has another woman lined up and asked the court not to grant the divorce.
But the judge, like Nigeria's wedding-throwing authorities, still hopes the two will stay together. She tabled the case until July 18 on the grounds of "possible reconciliation," said the Daily Times.