A Cape Town couple has decided to end their marriage because one partner refuses to be vaccinated.
Charnelle and Graham Spies of Bothasig, in Cape Town, have been married for 18 years. They say ending things has been a "very hard and difficult decision".
"Graham contracted Covid-19 last year and watching him deteriorate in front of me is something I don't wish on any human," Charnelle said.
"The virus attacked his lungs. He is also asthmatic, which made his breathing even more difficult. Seeing him leave the hospital last year, after he had recovered, was like witnessing a real-life miracle," she said.
Charnelle, 42, said she wasted no time in getting vaccinated as soon as she was eligible.
"I won't compromise on my health – it is non-negotiable. I told Graham since last year that if he refuses to get the jab, I don't see how I can continue to live with someone that won't protect himself and the people around him," she said.
Graham said not getting the vaccine was his personal decision.
I believe in science, to a certain extent. I don't want to be used as a guinea pig for vaccinations. There is no 100% guarantee it works.
He said he was "quite disappointed" that, after all the disagreements they have had over the past two decades, the vaccine would be the reason for the ending of their marriage.
They tied the knot in 2003. They don't have any children.
Under no circumstances will I be putting my unborn kids' lives in danger. We spoke about this numerous times. I said I will not bear his kids if he does not get vaccinated. It blows my mind that the man I've known my entire life is willing to throw all our future plans away just because he chooses to not get the vaccine. It's madness.
They have since sold their property and are in the process of relocating to different cities for work.
"This is not how I envisioned my marriage would end. Yes, we had our differences. We are not perfect. But, at the end of the day, we have to do what's right for our mental health," Graham said.
The couple is set to sign their annulment papers on 22 September.
Registered counsellor Shabaana Osman encouraged couples to first seek counselling and discuss the issue with a neutral, objective person.
"Vaccination is a very interesting topic of discussion for all. Some are pro-vaxxers and some are anti-vaxxers. Each one is equally passionate about their viewpoint. Divorce is also complex and is rarely due to one reason only," she said.
Osman explained that the lockdown forced partners to face their issues, without having escape as an alternative.
"Many couples were forced to be in each other's spaces for a much longer period. Couples were stripped of their escapes, which usually comes in the form of work and extracurricular activities, like gym and social visits."
She encouraged couples, who are bickering more, and are no longer on the same page regarding long-term life plans or important issues, to consider counselling.