Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that establishes rights and obligations between the spouses, between the spouses and their children, and between the spouses and their in-laws. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal. In many cultures, marriage is formalized via a wedding ceremony. In terms of legal recognition, most sovereign states and other jurisdictions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples or two persons of opposite gender in the gender binary, and a diminishing number of these permit polygyny, child marriages, and forced marriages. In modern times, a growing number of countries and other jurisdictions have lifted bans on and have established legal recognition for same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and interfaith marriage. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.
People marry for many reasons, including: legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious. Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a religious setting. The act of marriage usually creates normative or legal obligations between the individuals involved. Some cultures allow the dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment. Polygamous marriages may also occur in spite of national laws.
Marriage can be recognized by a state, an organization, a religious authority, a tribal group, a local community or peers. It is often viewed as a contract. Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution irrespective of religious affiliation, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction. Forced marriages are illegal in some jurisdictions.
|“||Marriage is the union of two different surnames, in friendship and in love, in order to continue the posterity of the former sages, and to furnish those who shall preside at the sacrifices to heaven and earth, at those in the ancestral temple, and at those at the altars to the spirits of the land and grain.||”|
Anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions of marriage so as to encompass the wide variety of marital practices observed across cultures. In his book The History of Human Marriage (1921), Edvard Westermarck defined marriage as "a more or less durable connection between male and female lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of the offspring." In The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization (1936), he rejected his earlier definition, instead provisionally defining marriage as "a relation of one or more men to one or more women that is recognized by custom or law".
The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are the recognized legitimate offspring of both partners." In recognition of a practice by the Nuer of Sudan allowing women to act as a husband in certain circumstances, Kathleen Gough suggested modifying this to "a woman and one or more other persons."
Edmund Leach criticized Gough's definition for being too restrictive in terms of recognized legitimate offspring and suggested that marriage be viewed in terms of the different types of rights it serves to establish. Leach expanded the definition and proposed that "Marriage is a relationship established between a woman and one or more other persons, which provides that a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is accorded full birth-status rights common to normal members of his society or social stratum" Leach argued that no one definition of marriage applied to all cultures. He offered a list of ten rights associated with marriage, including sexual monopoly and rights with respect to children, with specific rights differing across cultures.
Duran Bell also criticized the legitimacy-based definition on the basis that some societies do not require marriage for legitimacy, arguing that in societies where illegitimacy means only that the mother is unmarried and has no other legal implications, a legitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular. He proposed defining marriage in terms of sexual access rights.
The word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married. The adjective marīt-us -a, -um meaning matrimonial or nuptial could also be used in the masculine form as a noun for "husband" and in the feminine form for "wife." The related word "matrimony" derives from the Old French word matremoine which appears around 1300 CE and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium which combines the two concepts mater meaning "mother" and the suffix -monium signifying "action, state, or condition." "
Monogamy, the predecessor of formal marriage, may have evolved as recently as 20,000 years ago. There are estimates, based on sexual dimorphism, that place monogamy four million years ago.[clarification needed]
While the institution of marriage pre-dates recorded history, many cultures have legends concerning the origins of marriage. The way in which a marriage is conducted and its rules and ramifications has changed over time, as has the institution itself, depending on the culture or demographic of the time. Various cultures have had their own theories on the origin of marriage. One example may lie in a man's need for assurance as to paternity of his children. He might therefore be willing to pay a bride price or provide for a woman in exchange for exclusive sexual access. Legitimacy is the consequence of this transaction rather than its motivation. In Comanche society, married women work harder, lose sexual freedom, and do not seem to obtain any benefit from marriage. But nubile women are a source of jealousy and strife in the tribe, so they are given little choice other than to get married. "In almost all societies, access to women is institutionalized in some way so as to moderate the intensity of this competition." Forms of group marriage which involve more than one member of each sex, and therefore are not either polygyny or polyandry, have existed in history. However, these forms of marriage are extremely rare. Of the 250 societies reported by the American anthropologist George P. Murdock in 1949, only the Caingang of Brazil had any group marriages at all.
Various marriage practices have existed throughout the world. In some societies an individual is limited to being in one such couple at a time (monogamy), while other cultures allow a male to have more than one wife (polygyny) or, less commonly, a female to have more than one husband (polyandry). Some societies also allow marriage between two males or two females. Societies frequently have other restrictions on marriage based on the ages of the participants, pre-existing kinship, and membership in religious or other social groups.
A wife was seen as being of high value, and was therefore, usually, carefully looked after. Early nomadic communities practised a form of marriage known as beena, in which a wife would own a tent of her own, within which she retains complete independence from her husband; this principle appears to survive in parts of early Israelite society, as some early passages of the Bible appear to portray certain wives as each owning a tent as a personal possession (specifically, Jael, Sarah, and Jacob's wives). In later times, the Bible describes wives as being given the innermost room(s) of the husband's house, as her own private area to which men were not permitted; in the case of wealthy husbands, the Bible describes their wives as having each been given an entire house for this purpose.
It was not, however, a life of complete freedom. The descriptions of the Bible suggest that a wife was expected to perform certain household tasks: spinning, sewing, weaving, manufacture of clothing, fetching of water, baking of bread, and animal husbandry. The Book of Proverbs contains an entire acrostic about the duties which would be performed by a virtuous wife.
The husband too, is indirectly implied to have some responsibilities to his wife. The Covenant Code orders men who have two wives (polygynously) to not deprive the first wife of food, of clothing, nor of sexual activity; if the husband does not provide the first wife with these things, she is to be divorced, without cost to her. The Talmud interprets this as a requirement for a man to provide food and clothing to, and have sex with, each of his wives.[clarification needed]
As a polygynous society, the Israelites did not have any laws which imposed marital fidelity on men. However, the prophet Malachi states that none should be faithless to the wive of his youth and that God hates divorce. Adulterous married women and adulterous betrothed women, however, were subject to the death penalty by the biblical laws against adultery, as were men who slept with married women. According to the Priestly Code of the Book of Numbers, if a pregnant woman was suspected of adultery, she was to be subjected to the Ordeal of Bitter Water, a form of trial by ordeal, but one that took a miracle to convict. The literary prophets indicate that adultery was a frequent occurrence, despite their strong protests against it, and these legal strictnesses.
In Ancient Greece, no specific civil ceremony was required for the creation of a marriage – only mutual agreement and the fact that the couple must regard each other as husband and wife accordingly. Men usually married when they were in their 20s and women in their teens. It has been suggested that these ages made sense for the Greeks because men were generally done with military service or financially established by their late 20s, and marrying a young girl ensured ample time for her to bear children, as life expectancies were significantly lower during this period. Married Greek women had few rights in ancient Greek society and were expected to take care of the house and children. Time was an important factor in Greek marriage. For example, there were superstitions that being married during a full moon was good luck and, according to Robert Flacelière, Greeks married in the winter. Inheritance was more important than feelings: a woman whose father dies without male heirs could be forced to marry her nearest male relative-even if she had to divorce her husband first.
There were several types of marriages in ancient Roman society. The traditional ("conventional") form called conventio in manum required a ceremony with witnesses and was also dissolved with a ceremony. In this type of marriage, a woman lost her family rights of inheritance of her old family and gained them with her new one. She now was subject to the authority of her husband. There was the free marriage known as sine manu. In this arrangement, the wife remained a member of her original family; she stayed under the authority of her father, kept her family rights of inheritance with her old family and did not gain any with the new family. The minimum age of marriage for girls was 12.
The young men marry late and their vigor is thereby unimpaired. The girls, too, are not hurried into marriage. As old and full-grown as the men, they match their mates in age and strength, and their children reproduce the might of their parents.
Where Aristotle had set the prime of life at 37 years for men and 18 for women, the Visigothic Code of law in the 7th century placed the prime of life at twenty years for both men and women, after which both presumably married. It can be presumed that most ancient Germanic women were at least twenty years of age when they married and were roughly the same age as their husbands.
From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required. However, bishop Ignatius of Antioch writing around 110 to bishop Polycarp of Smyrna exhorts, "[I]t becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust."
In the 12th century[where?], women were obligated to take the name of their husbands and starting in the second half of the 16th century[where?] parental consent along with the church's consent was required for marriage.
With few local exceptions, until 1545, Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the "verbum." If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., "I marry you"), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense ("I will marry you"), it would constitute a betrothal. One of the functions of churches from the Middle Ages was to register marriages, which was not obligatory. There was no state involvement in marriage and personal status, with these issues being adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts. During the Middle Ages marriages were arranged, sometimes as early as birth, and these early pledges to marry were often used to ensure treaties between different royal families, nobles, and heirs of fiefdoms. The church resisted these imposed unions, and increased the number of causes for nullification of these arrangements. As Christianity spread during the Roman period and the Middle Ages, the idea of free choice in selecting marriage partners increased and spread with it.
The average age of marriage for most Northwestern Europeans from the late 14th century into the 19th century was around 25 years of age; as the Church dictated that both parties had to be at least 21 years of age to marry without the consent of their parents, the bride and groom were roughly the same age, with most brides in their early twenties and most grooms two or three years older, and a substantial number of women married for the first time in their thirties and forties, particularly in urban areas, with the average age at first marriage rising and falling as circumstances dictated. In better times, more people could afford to marry earlier and thus fertility rose and conversely marriages were delayed or foregone when times were bad, thus restricting family size; after the Black Death, the greater availability of profitable jobs allowed more people to marry young and have more children, but the stabilization of the population in the 16th century meant less job opportunities and thus more people delaying marriages.
As part of the Protestant Reformation, the role of recording marriages and setting the rules for marriage passed to the state, reflecting Martin Luther's view that marriage was a "worldly thing". By the 17th century, many of the Protestant European countries had a state involvement in marriage. As of 2000, the average marriage age range was 25–44 years for men and 22–39 years for women. In England, under the Anglican Church, marriage by consent and cohabitation was valid until the passage of Lord Hardwicke's Act in 1753. This act instituted certain requirements for marriage, including the performance of a religious ceremony observed by witnesses.
As part of the Counter-Reformation, in 1563 the Council of Trent decreed that a Roman Catholic marriage would be recognized only if the marriage ceremony was officiated by a priest with two witnesses. The Council also authorized a Catechism, issued in 1566, which defined marriage as, "The conjugal union of man and woman, contracted between two qualified persons, which obliges them to live together throughout life."
In the early modern period, John Calvin and his Protestant colleagues reformulated Christian marriage by enacting the Marriage Ordinance of Geneva, which imposed "The dual requirements of state registration and church consecration to constitute marriage" for recognition.
In England and Wales, Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753 required a formal ceremony of marriage, thereby curtailing the practice of Fleet Marriage, an irregular or a clandestine marriage. These were clandestine or irregular marriages performed at Fleet Prison, and at hundreds of other places. From the 1690s until the Marriage Act of 1753 as many as 300,000 clandestine marriages were performed at Fleet Prison alone. The Act required a marriage ceremony to be officiated by an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church with two witnesses and registration. The Act did not apply to Jewish marriages or those of Quakers, whose marriages continued to be governed by their own customs.
In England and Wales, since 1837, civil marriages have been recognized as a legal alternative to church marriages under the Marriage Act 1836. In Germany, civil marriages were recognized in 1875. This law permitted a declaration of the marriage before an official clerk of the civil administration, when both spouses affirm their will to marry, to constitute a legally recognized valid and effective marriage, and allowed an optional private clerical marriage ceremony.
In contemporary English common law, a marriage is a voluntary contract by a man and a woman, in which by agreement they choose to become husband and wife. Edvard Westermarck proposed that "the institution of marriage has probably developed out of a primeval habit".
The mythological origin of Chinese marriage is a story about Nüwa and Fu Xi who invented proper marriage procedures after becoming married. In ancient Chinese society, people of the same surname are supposed to consult with their family trees prior marriage to reduce the potential risk of unintentional incest. Marriaging to one's maternal relatives was generally not thought of as incest, families sometimes intermarried from one generation to another. Over time, Chinese people became more geographically mobile. Individuals remained members of their biological families. When a couple died, the husband and the wife were buried separately in the respective clans’ graveyard. In a maternal marriage, a male would become a son-in-law who lived in the wife's home.
The New Marriage Law of 1950 radically changed Chinese marriage traditions, enforcing monogamy, equality of men and women, and choice in marriage; arranged marriages were the most common type of marriage in China until then.
Various types of same-sex marriages have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.
While it is a relatively new practice to grant same-sex couples the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly granted to mixed-sex couples, there is some history of recorded same-sex unions around the world. It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome, some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history. A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 342 CE imposed severe penalties or death on same-sex relationships in ancient Rome but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.
The first laws in modern times recognizing same-sex marriage were enacted during the first decade of the 21st century. As of March 2013, eleven countries (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden), and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Brazil, Mexico, and the United States), allow same-sex couples to marry. Bills allowing legal recognition of same-sex marriage have been proposed, are pending, or have passed at least one legislative house in Andorra, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Nepal, New Zealand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay as well as in the legislatures of several sub-national jurisdictions (in Scotland as well as parts of Australia, Mexico, and the United States).
Introduction of same-sex marriage laws has varied by jurisdiction, being variously accomplished through a legislative change to marriage laws, a court ruling based on constitutional guarantees of equality, or by direct popular vote (via a ballot initiative or a referendum). The recognition of same-sex marriage is a political, social, civil rights and religious issue in many nations, and debates continue to arise over whether same-sex couples should be allowed marriage, be required to hold a different status (a civil union), or be denied recognition of such rights. Allowing same-gender couples to legally marry is considered to be one of the most important of all LGBT rights.
A civil union, also referred to as a civil partnership, is a legally recognized form of partnership similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have been established by law in several countries in order to provide same-sex couples rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar (in some countries, identical) to opposite-sex civil marriage. In some jurisdictions, such as Brazil, New Zealand, Uruguay, Ecuador, France and the U.S. states of Hawaii and Illinois, civil unions are also open to opposite-sex couples.
Group marriage also known as multi-lateral marriage, is a form of polyamory in which more than two persons form a family unit, with all the members of the group marriage being considered to be married to all the other members of the group marriage, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. No country legally condones group marriages, neither under the law nor as a common law marriage, but historically it has been practiced by some cultures of Polynesia, Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Americas – as well as in some intentional communities and alternative subcultures.
There is wide cross-cultural variation in the social rules governing the selection of a partner for marriage. There is variation in the degree to which partner selection is an individual decision by the partners or a collective decision by the partners' kin groups, and there is variation in the rules regulating which partners are valid choices.
In many societies the choice of partner is limited to suitable persons from specific social groups. In some societies the rule is that a partner is selected from an individual's own social group – endogamy, this is the case in many class and caste based societies. But in other societies a partner must be chosen from a different group than one's own – exogamy, this is the case in many societies practicing totemic religion where society is divided into several exogamous totemic clans, such as most Aboriginal Australian societies. In other societies a person is expected to marry their cross-cousin, a woman must marry her father's sister's son and a man must marry his mother's brother's daughter – this is often the case if either a society has a rule of tracing kinship exclusively through patrilineal or matrilineal descent groups as among the Akan people of West Africa. Another kind of marriage selection is the levirate marriage in which widows are obligated to marry their husband's brother, mostly found in societies where kinship is based on endogamous clan groups.
In other cultures with less strict rules governing the groups from which a partner can be chosen the selection of a marriage partner may involve either the couple going through a selection process of courtship or the marriage may be arranged by the couple's parents or an outside party, a matchmaker.
A pragmatic (or 'arranged') marriage is made easier by formal procedures of family or group politics. A responsible authority sets up or encourages the marriage; they may, indeed, engage a professional matchmaker to find a suitable spouse for an unmarried person. The authority figure could be parents, family, a religious official, or a group consensus. In some cases, the authority figure may choose a match for purposes other than marital harmony.
In rural Indian villages, child marriage is also practiced, with parents at times arranging the wedding, sometimes even before the child is born. This practice was made illegal under the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929.
In some societies ranging from Central Asia to the Caucasus to Africa, the custom of bride kidnapping still exists, in which a woman is captured by a man and his friends. Sometimes this covers an elopement, but sometimes it depends on sexual violence. In previous times, raptio was a larger-scale version of this, with groups of women captured by groups of men, sometimes in war; the most famous example is The Rape of the Sabine Women, which provided the first citizens of Rome with their wives.
Other marriage partners are more or less imposed on an individual. For example, widow inheritance provides a widow with another man from her late husband's brothers.
A marriage is usually formalized at a wedding or marriage ceremony. The ceremony may be officiated either by a religious official, by a government official or by a state approved celebrant. In many European and some Latin American countries, any religious ceremony must be held separately from the required civil ceremony. Some countries – such as Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Romania and Turkey – require that a civil ceremony take place before any religious one. In some countries – notably the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Norway and Spain – both ceremonies can be held together; the officiant at the religious and civil ceremony also serving as agent of the state to perform the civil ceremony. To avoid any implication that the state is "recognizing" a religious marriage (which is prohibited in some countries) – the "civil" ceremony is said to be taking place at the same time as the religious ceremony. Often this involves simply signing a register during the religious ceremony. If the civil element of the religious ceremony is omitted, the marriage ceremony is not recognized as a marriage by government under the law.
While some countries, such as Australia, permit marriages to be held in private and at any location, others, including England and Wales, require that the civil ceremony be conducted in a place open to the public and specially sanctioned by law. In England, the place of marriage need no longer be a church or register office, but could also be a hotel, historic building or other venue that has obtained the necessary license. An exception can be made in the case of marriage by special emergency license, which is normally granted only when one of the parties is terminally ill. Rules about where and when persons can marry vary from place to place. Some regulations require that one of the parties reside in the locality of the registry office.
Within the parameters set by the law of the jurisdiction in which a marriage or wedding takes place, each religious authority has rules for the manner in which weddings are to be conducted by their officials and members.
Marriage is an institution which can join together people's lives in a variety of emotional and economic ways. In many Western cultures, marriage usually leads to the formation of a new household comprising the married couple, with the married couple living together in the same home, often sharing the same bed, but in some other cultures this is not the tradition. Among the Minangkabau of West Sumatra, residency after marriage is matrilocal, with the husband moving into the household of his wife's mother. Residency after marriage can also be patrilocal or avunculocal. Such marriages have also been increasingly common in Beijing. Guo Jianmei, director of the center for women's studies at Beijing University, told a Newsday correspondent, "Walking marriages reflect sweeping changes in Chinese society." A similar arrangement in Saudi Arabia, called misyar marriage, also involves the husband and wife living separately but meeting regularly.
Conversely, marriage is not a prerequisite for cohabitation. In some cases couples living together do not wish to be recognized as married, such as when pension or alimony rights are adversely affected, or because of taxation consideration, or because of immigration issues, and for many other reasons. In western societies some couples cohabitate before marriage to test whether such an arrangement might work in the long term.
In some cases cohabitation may constitute a common-law marriage, and in some countries the laws recognize cohabitation in preference to the formality of marriage for taxation and social security benefits. This is the case, for example, in Australia.
Many of the world's major religions look with disfavor on sexual relations outside of marriage. Many non-secular states sanction criminal penalties for sexual intercourse before marriage. Sexual relations by a married person with someone other than his/her spouse is known as adultery and is also frequently disapproved by the major world religions (some calling it a sin). Adultery is considered in many jurisdictions to be a crime and grounds for divorce.
In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Yemen, any form of sexual activity outside marriage is illegal.
In some parts of the world, women and girls accused of having sexual relations outside marriage are at risk of becoming victims of honor killings committed by their families. In 2011 several people were sentenced to death by stoning after being accused of adultery in Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali and Pakistan. Practices such as honor killings and stoning continue to be supported by mainstream politicians and other officials in some countries. In Pakistan, after the 2008 Balochistan honour killings in which five women were killed by tribesmen of the Umrani Tribe of Balochistan, Pakistani Federal Minister for Postal Services Israr Ullah Zehri defended the practice; he said: "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid." Domestic violence is today illegal in the Western World, but this is not the case in many developing countries. In Jordan, for instance, part of article 340 of the Penal Code states that "he who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty."
Historically, and still in many countries, children born outside of marriage suffered severe social stigma and discrimination. In England and Wales, such children were known as bastards and whoresons.
In Europe and Latin America, the situation has changed. Children born outside marriage have become more common, and in some countries, the majority. Recent data from Latin America showed figures for non-marital childbearing to be 74% for Colombia, 69% for Peru, 68% for Chile, 58% for Argentina, 55% for Mexico In Europe, in 2011, the highest levels of extramarital births were found in Northern Europe and some countries of the former Communist Bloc: Iceland (65%), Estonia (59.7%), Slovenia (56.8%), Bulgaria (56.1%), Norway (55%), Sweden (54.2%). Data from 2011 showed that in that year, in the European Union, 39.5% of births were to unmarried women. Greece had the lowest proportion of births outside marriage, at 7.4% in 2011.
In the United States, births outside marriage are not as socially accepted as in other Western countries, but their prevalence has increased nevertheless. Social views have become more accepting. In 1992, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 30.1% of births were to unmarried women. In 2010, 40.8% of births were to unmarried women.
Some married couples choose not to have children. Others are unable to have children because of infertility or other factors preventing conception or the bearing of children. In some cultures, marriage imposes an obligation on women to bear children. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bridewealth signifies a woman's requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of physical abuse and reprisals.
|Marriage and similar status|
|Dissolution of marriage|
|Conflict of laws|
Marriage laws refer to the legal requirements which determine the validity of a marriage, which vary considerably between countries.
In a small number of jurisdictions marriage relationships may be created by the operation of the law alone. Unlike the typical ceremonial marriage with legal contract, wedding ceremony, and other details, a common-law marriage may be called "marriage by habit and repute (cohabitation)." A de facto common-law marriage without a license or ceremony is legally binding in some jurisdictions but has no legal consequence in others.
A marriage bestows rights and obligations on the married parties, and sometimes on relatives as well, being the sole mechanism for the creation of affinal ties (in-laws). These may include, depending on jurisdiction:
These rights and obligations vary considerably between societies, and between groups within society. These might include arranged marriages, family obligations, the legal establishment of a nuclear family unit, the legal protection of children and public declaration of commitment.
Marriage is an institution that is historically filled with restrictions. From age, to race, to social status, to consanguinity, to gender, restrictions are placed on marriage by society for reasons of benefiting the children, passing on healthy genes, maintaining cultural values, or because of prejudice and fear. Almost all cultures that recognize marriage also recognize adultery as a violation of the terms of marriage.
Most jurisdictions set a minimum age for marriage, that is, a person must attain a certain age to be legally allowed to marry. This age may depend on circumstances, for instance exceptions from the general rule may be permitted if the parents of a young person express their consent and/or if a court decides that said marriage is in the best interest of the young person (often this applies in cases where a girl is pregnant). Although most age restrictions are in place in order to prevent children from being forced into marriages, especially to much older partners, which lead to child sexual abuse, such child marriages remain common in parts of the world. According to the UN, child marriages are most common in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are: Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Malawi.
The United States has had a history of marriage restriction laws. Many states enacted miscegenation laws which were first introduced in the late 17th century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692) and lasted until 1967 (until it was overturned via Loving v. Virginia). Many of these states restricted several minorities from marrying whites. For example, Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma banned Blacks in particular. States such as Mississippi and Missouri banned Blacks and Asians. States such as North Carolina and South Carolina banned Blacks and Native Americans, and some states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia banned all non-whites.
Many societies have required a person to marry within their own general social group, which anthropologists refer to as endogamy. An example of such restrictions would be a requirement to marry someone from the same tribe.
It is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition available to mixed-sexed couples. In the United States, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) explicitly defines marriage for the purposes of federal law as between a man and a woman and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states (though states arguably could do this already). Forty-one US states currently define marriage as between a man and a woman. Three of those states have statutory language that pre-dates DOMA (enacted before 1996) defining marriage as such. Thirty states have defined marriage in their constitutions. Arizona is the only state that has ever defeated a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman (2006), but it subsequently passed one in 2008.
Societies have often placed restrictions on marriage to relatives, though the degree of prohibited relationship varies widely. With few exceptions, marriages between parents and children or between full siblings have been considered incest and forbidden. However, marriages between more distant relatives have been much more common, with one estimate being that 80% of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer. This proportion has fallen dramatically, but still more than 10% of all marriages are believed to be between first and second cousins. In the United States, such marriages are now highly stigmatized, and laws ban most or all first-cousin marriage in 30 states. Specifics vary: in South Korea, historically it was illegal to marry someone with the same last name.
Restrictions against polygamy have been common.
In many jurisdictions, a civil marriage may take place as part of the religious marriage ceremony, although they are theoretically distinct. Some jurisdictions allow civil marriages in circumstances which are notably not allowed by particular religions, such as same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Among the precepts of mainstream religions are found, as a rule, unequivocal prescriptions for marriage, establishing both rituals and rules of conduct.
In the Bahá'í Faith marriage is encouraged and viewed as a mutually strengthening bond, but is not obligatory. A Bahá'í marriage requires the couple to choose each other, and then the consent of all living parents.
Christians variously regard marriage as a sacrament, a contract, a sacred institution, or a covenant. From the very beginning of the Christian Church, marriage law and theology have been a major matter. The foundation of the Western tradition of Christian marriages have been the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul.
Christians often marry for religious reasons ranging from following the biblical injunction for a "man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one,"
Divorce and remarriage while generally not encouraged are regarded differently by each Christian denomination. Most Protestant Churches allow people to marry again after a divorce. The Eastern Orthodox Church allows divorce for a limited number of reasons, and in theory, but usually not in practice, requires that a marriage after divorce be celebrated with a penitential overtone. In the Roman Catholic Church, marriage can be ended by an annulment where the Church for special reasons regards it as never having taken place.
"'...So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
"'To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife."
Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and many Anglicans consider marriage termed holy matrimony to be an expression of divine grace, termed a sacrament or mystery. In Western ritual, the ministers of the sacrament are the husband and wife themselves, with a bishop, priest, or deacon merely witnessing the union on behalf of the church, and adding a blessing. In Eastern ritual churches, the bishop or priest functions as the actual minister of the Sacred Mystery (Eastern Orthodox deacons may not perform marriages). Western Christians commonly refer to marriage as a vocation, while Eastern Christians consider it an ordination and a martyrdom, though the theological emphases indicated by the various names are not excluded by the teachings of either tradition.[dubious ] Marriage is commonly celebrated in the context of a Eucharistic service (a nuptial Mass or Divine Liturgy). The sacrament of marriage is indicative of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
The Roman Catholic tradition of the 12th and 13th centuries defined marriage as a sacrament ordained by God, signifying the mystical marriage of Christ to his Church.
"The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
The mutual love between man and wife becomes an image of the eternal love with which God loves humankind. The celebration of marriage between two Catholics normally takes place during the public liturgical celebration of the Holy Mass, because of its sacramental connection with the unity of the Paschal mystery of Christ (Communion). Sacramental marriage confers a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses. By its nature, the institution of marriage and conjugal love is ordered to the procreation and upbringing of offspring. Marriage creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children: "[e]ntering marriage with the intention of never having children is a grave wrong and more than likely grounds for an annulment."
According to current Catholic legislation governing marriage, the essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility; in Christian marriage they acquire a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament. Divorce is not recognized, but annulments predicated upon previously existing impediments may be granted. Offspring resulting from annulled relationships are considered legitimate. Remarried persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion.
For Protestant denominations, the purposes of marriage include intimate companionship, rearing children and mutual support for both husband and wife to fulfill their life callings. Protestants are generally not opposed to the use of birth control and consider marital sexual pleasure to be a gift of God.
Historically, five competing models of marriage in Christianity have shaped Western marriage and legal tradition:
Once the process of marriage was secularized into a private contract, the role of churches substantially diminished for Protestants. This culminated in the second half of the 20th century with nearly all Protestants permitting divorce and remarriage.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) believe that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." The LDS belief is that marriage between a man and a woman can last beyond death and into eternity.
Islam also commends marriage, with the age of marriage being whenever the individuals feel ready, financially and emotionally.
In Islam, polygyny is allowed while polyandry is not, with the specific limitation that men can have no more than four wives at any one time, with the requirement that they are able and willing to partition their time and wealth equally among the respective wives.
For a Muslim wedding to take place, the bride and her guardian must both agree on the marriage. Should either the guardian or the girl disagree on the marriage, it may not legally take place. In essence, while the guardian/father of the girl has no right to force her to marry, he has the right to stop a marriage from taking place, given that his reasons are valid. The professed purpose of this practice is to ensure that a woman finds a suitable partner whom she has chosen not out of sheer emotion.
From an Islamic (Sharia) law perspective, the minimum requirements and responsibilities in a Muslim marriage are that the groom provide living expenses (housing, clothing, food, maintenance) to the bride, and in return, the bride's main responsibility is raising children to be proper Muslims. All other rights and responsibilities are to be decided between the husband and wife, and may even be included as stipulations in the marriage contract before the marriage actually takes place, so long as they do not go against the minimum requirements of the marriage.
In Sunni Islam marriage must take place in the presence of at least two reliable witnesses, with the consent of the guardian of the bride and the consent of both the bride and the groom. Following the marriage, the couple may consummate the marriage. To create a religious contract between them, it is sufficient that a man and a woman indicate an intention to marry each other and recite the requisite words in front of a suitable Muslim, nowadays priest will be asked to officiate. The wedding party usually follows but can be held days, or months later, whenever the couple and their families want to, however there can be no concealment of the marriage as it is regarded as public notification due to the requirement of witnesses.
In Shia Islam, marriage may take place without the presence of witnesses as is often the case in temporary mutta marriage (prohibited in Sunni Islam), but with the consent of both the bride and the groom. Following the marriage they may consummate their marriage.
In Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond commanded by God in which a man and a woman come together to create a relationship in which God is directly involved.
The Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) describes a number of marriages, including those of Isaac (Gen 24:49–67), Jacob(Gen 29:27) and Samson (Judges 14:7–12). Polygyny, or men having multiple wives at once, is one of the most common marital arrangements represented in the Hebrew Bible.
Betrothal (erusin), which is merely a binding promise to get married, is distinct from marriage itself (nissu'in), with the time between these events varying substantially. Since a wife was regarded as property in those days, the betrothal (erusin) was effected simply by purchasing her from her father (or guardian); the girl’s consent is not explicitly required by any biblical law. Like the adjacent Arabic culture (in the pre-Islamic period), the act of marriage appears mainly to have consisted of the groom fetching the bride, although among the Israelites (unlike the Arabs) the procession was a festive occasion, accompanied by music, dancing, and lights. To celebrate the marriage, week-long feasts were sometimes held.
In biblical times, a wife was regarded as chattel, belonging to her husband; the descriptions of the Bible suggest that she would be expected to perform tasks such as spinning, sewing, weaving, manufacture of clothing, fetching of water, baking of bread, and animal husbandry. However, wives were usually looked after with care, and men with more than one wife were expected to ensure that they continue to give the first wife food, clothing, and marital rights.
Since a wife was regarded as property, her husband was originally free to divorce her for any reason, at any time. A divorced couple were permitted to get back together, unless the wife had married someone else after her divorce.
Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. Old Hindu literature in Sanskrit gives many different types of marriages and their categorization ranging from "Gandharva Vivaha" (instant marriage by mutual consent of participants only, without any need for even a single third person as witness) to normal (present day) marriages, to "Rakshasa Vivaha" ("demoniac" marriage, performed by abduction of one participant by the other participant, usually, but not always, with the help of other persons). In India and generally in South Asia, arranged marriages, the spouse's parents or an older family member choose the partner, are still predominant in comparison with so called love marriages until nowadays. The Hindu Widow's Remarriage Act 1856 empowers a Hindu widow to remarry.
Sati, the practice of a widow immolating herself on her husband's funeral pyre, was officially outlawed by India's British rulers in 1829. The last sati incident allegedly ouccured in Rajasthan in 1987 when 18-year-old Roop Kanwar allegedly committed sati. A court order ruled in 2004 that no such incident had occurred and acquitted all accused.
The Buddhist view of marriage considers marriage a secular affair and as such, it is not considered a sacrament. Buddhists are expected to follow the civil laws regarding marriage laid out by their respective governments.
In a Sikh marriage, the couple make rounds around the holy book called Guru Granth Sahib four times and the holy man speaks some words from the Guru Granth Sahib in the form of kirtan. The ceremony is known as 'Anand Karaj' and represents the holy union of between two souls that are united as one.
Wiccan marriages are commonly known as handfastings. Although handfastings vary for each Wiccan they often involve honoring Wiccan gods. Sex is considered a pious and sacred activity.
While some religious denominations do not currently perform same-sex marriages, several do, such as Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Quaker, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ and Reform Jewish congregations, some Anglican dioceses, and various Neopagan faiths, for example. Same-sex marriage is recognized by various jurisdictions and religious denominations.
Religious groups have differing views on the legitimacy of polygyny, the practice of a man taking more than one wife. It is allowed in Islam and Confucianism, though in most areas today it is uncommon. Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism have allowed polygyny in the past, but it is prohibited today.
Religion has commonly weighed in on the matter of which relatives, if any, are allowed to marry. Relations may be by consanguinity or affinity, meaning by blood or by marriage. On the marriage of cousins, Catholic policy has evolved from initial acceptance, through a long period of general prohibition, to the contemporary requirement for a dispensation. Islam has always allowed it, while Hindu strictures vary widely.
The financial aspects of marriage vary between cultures and have changed over time.
In some cultures, dowries and bride prices continue to be required today. In both cases, the financial arrangements are usually made between the groom (or his family) and the bride's family; with the bride in many cases not being involved in the arrangement, and often not having a choice in whether to participate in the marriage.
In Early Modern Britain, the social status of the couple was supposed to be equal. After the marriage, all the property (called "fortune") and expected inheritances of the wife belonged to the husband.
A dowry was not an unconditional gift,[clarification needed] but was usually a part of a wider marriage settlement. For example, if the groom had other children, they could not inherit the dowry, which had to go to the bride's children. In the event of her childlessness, the dowry had to be returned to her family, but sometimes not until the groom's death or remarriage.
In some cultures, especially in South Asia, in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, dowries continue to be expected. In India, nearly 7,000 women were killed in 2001 over dowries, and activists believe that figures represent a third of the actual number of such murders. Dowry related violence is a problem in several places (see dowry deaths), and, in response to violent incidents regarding the practice, several jurisdictions have enacted laws restricting or banning dowry (see Dowry law in India). In Nepal, dowry has been made illegal in 2009. Many authors believe that the giving and receiving of dowry reflects the status and even the effort to climb high in social hierarchy.
In other cultures, the groom or his family were expected to pay a bride price to the bride's family for the right to marry the daughter, or dower, which was payable to the bride. This required the groom to work for the bride's family for a set period of time.
In the Jewish tradition, the rabbis in ancient times insisted on the marriage couple entering into a marriage contact, called a ketubah. Besides other things, the ketubah provided for an amount to be paid by the husband in the event of a divorce or his estate in the event of his death. This amount was a replacement of the biblical dower or bride price, which was payable at the time of the marriage by the groom to the father of the bride.
Morning gifts, which might also be arranged by the bride's father rather than the bride, are given to the bride herself; the name derives from the Germanic tribal custom of giving them the morning after the wedding night. She might have control of this morning gift during the lifetime of her husband, but is entitled to it when widowed. If the amount of her inheritance is settled by law rather than agreement, it may be called dower. Depending on legal systems and the exact arrangement, she may not be entitled to dispose of it after her death, and may lose the property if she remarries. Morning gifts were preserved for many centuries in morganatic marriage, a union where the wife's inferior social status was held to prohibit her children from inheriting a noble's titles or estates. In this case, the morning gift would support the wife and children. Another legal provision for widowhood was jointure, in which property, often land, would be held in joint tenancy, so that it would automatically go to the widow on her husband's death.
Islamic tradition has similar practices. A 'mahr', either immediate or deferred, is the woman's portion of the groom's wealth (divorce) or estate (death). These amounts are usually set on the basis of the groom's own and family wealth and incomes, but in some parts these are set very high so as to provide a disincentive for the groom exercising the divorce, or the husband's family 'inheriting' a large portion of the estate, especially if there are no male offspring from the marriage. In some countries, including Iran, the mahr or alimony can amount to more than a man can ever hope to earn, sometimes up to US$1,000,000 (4000 official Iranian gold coins). If the husband cannot pay the mahr, either in case of a divorce or on demand, according to the current laws in Iran, he will have to pay it by installments. Failure to pay the mahr might even lead to imprisonment.
In many countries today, each marriage partner has the choice of keeping his or her property separate or combining properties. In the latter case, called community property, when the marriage ends by divorce each owns half. In lieu of a will or trust, property owned by the deceased generally is inherited by the surviving spouse.
In some legal systems, the partners in a marriage are "jointly liable" for the debts of the marriage. This has a basis in a traditional legal notion called the "Doctrine of Necessities" whereby a husband was responsible to provide necessary things for his wife. Where this is the case, one partner may be sued to collect a debt for which they did not expressly contract. Critics of this practice note that debt collection agencies can abuse this by claiming an unreasonably wide range of debts to be expenses of the marriage. The cost of defense and the burden of proof is then placed on the non-contracting party to prove that the expense is not a debt of the family. The respective maintenance obligations, both during and eventually after a marriage, are regulated in most jurisdictions; alimony is one such method.
Some have attempted to analyze the institution of marriage using economic theory; for example, anarcho-capitalist economist David D. Friedman has written a lengthy and controversial study of marriage as a market transaction (the market for husbands and wives). In the past the economic status of women was enhanced through marriage; however, as more women work nowadays, men gain more economically than women.
In some countries, spouses are allowed to average their incomes; this is advantageous to a married couple with disparate incomes. To compensate for this somewhat, many countries provide a higher tax bracket for the averaged income of a married couple. While income averaging might still benefit a married couple with a stay-at-home spouse, such averaging would cause a married couple with roughly equal personal incomes to pay more total tax than they would as two single persons. This is commonly called the marriage penalty.
Moreover, when the rates applied by the tax code are not based on averaging the incomes, but rather on the sum of individuals' incomes, higher rates will definitely apply to each individual in a two-earner households in progressive tax systems. This is most often the case with high-income taxpayers and is another situation where some consider there to be a marriage penalty.
Conversely, when progressive tax is levied on the individual with no consideration for the partnership, dual-income couples fare much better than single-income couples with similar household incomes. The effect can be increased when the welfare system treats the same income as a shared income thereby denying welfare access to the non-earning spouse. Such systems apply in Australia and Canada, for example.
Sometimes people marry for purely pragmatic reasons, sometimes called a marriage of convenience or sham marriage. For example, according to one publisher of information about "green card" marriages, "Every year over 450,000 United States citizens marry foreign-born individuals and petition for them to obtain a permanent residency (Green Card) in the United States." While this is likely an overestimate, in 2003 alone 184,741 immigrants were admitted to the U.S. as spouses of U.S. citizens. Many more were admitted as fiancés of US citizens for the purpose of being married within 90 days. Regardless of the number of people entering the US to marry a US citizen, it does not indicate the number of these marriages that are convenience marriages, which number could include some of those with the motive of obtaining permanent residency, but also include many people who are US citizens. One example would be to obtain an inheritance that has a marriage clause. Another example would be to save money on health insurance or to enter a health plan with preexisting conditions offered by the new spouse's employer. Many other situations exist, and, in fact, all marriages have a complex combination of conveniences motivating the parties to marry. A marriage of convenience is one that is devoid of normal reasons to marry.
Some people want to marry a person with higher or lower status than them. Others want to marry people who have similar status. Hypergyny refers to the act of seeking out those who are of slightly higher social status. In most cases, hypergyny refers to women wanting men of higher status. Isogyny refers to the act of seeking out those who are of similar status.
In recent years, the customs of dowry and bride price have received international criticism. In some countries, these practices have been outlawed or restricted. Criticism of these traditions include that they incite conflicts between families and clans, they contribute to violence against women, they promote materialism, they increase property crimes (where men steal goods such as cattle in order to be able to pay the bride price) and they make it difficult for poor people to marry. African women’s rights campaigners advocate the abolishing of bride price, which they argue is based on the idea that women are a form of property which can be bought, and once the man has paid the price, the wife belongs to him and he gains the right to control her life. Bride price has also been criticized for contributing to child trafficking, where impoverished parents sell their young daughters to rich older men. A senior Papua New Guinea police officer has called for the abolishing of bride price arguing that it is one of the main reasons for the mistreatment of women in the country. The opposite practice of dowry has been linked to a high level of violence (see dowry deaths) and to crimes such as extortion.
In most societies, the death of one of the partners terminates the marriage, and in monogamous societies this allows the other partner to remarry, though sometimes after a waiting or mourning period.
In some societies, a marriages can be annulled, when an authority declares, that a marriage never happened.
A marriage may also be terminated through divorce. As of 2012, the Philippines and the Vatican City are the only jurisdictions which do not allow divorce (this is currently under discussion in Philippines ). After divorce, one spouse may have to pay alimony. Laws concerning divorce and the ease with which a divorce can be obtained vary widely around the world. After a divorce or an annulment, the people concerned are free to remarry (or marry).
A statutory right of two married partners to mutually consent to divorce was enacted in western nations in the mid-20th century. In the United States no-fault divorce was first enacted in California in 1969 and the final state to legalize it was New York in 1989.
About 45% of marriages in Britain and 46% of marriages in the U.S., according to a 2009 study, end in divorce.
Several cultures have practiced temporary and conditional marriages. Examples include the Celtic practice of handfasting and fixed-term marriages in the Muslim community. Pre-Islamic Arabs practiced a form of temporary marriage that carries on today in the practice of Nikah Mut'ah, a fixed-term marriage contract. The prophet Muhammad sanctioned a temporary marriage-sigheh in Iran and muta'a in Iraq- which can provide a legitimizing cover for sex workers. Muslim controversies related to Nikah Mut'ah have resulted in the practice being confined mostly to Shi'ite communities.
Many cultures have defined where the newly married couple should live: either with or near the husband's family or the wife's.
Early theories explaining the determinants of postmarital residence connected it with the sexual division of labor. However, to date, cross-cultural tests of this hypothesis using worldwide samples have failed to find any significant relationship between these two variables. However, Korotayev's tests show that the female contribution to subsistence does correlate significantly with matrilocal residence in general. However, this correlation is masked by a general polygyny factor.
Although an increase in the female contribution to subsistence tends to lead to matrilocal residence, it also tends simultaneously to lead to general non-sororal polygyny which effectively destroys matrilocality. If this polygyny factor is controlled (e.g., through a multiple regression model), division of labor turns out to be a significant predictor of postmarital residence. Thus, Murdock's hypotheses regarding the relationships between the sexual division of labor and postmarital residence were basically correct, though the actual relationships between those two groups of variables are more complicated than he expected.
There has been a trend toward the neolocal residence in society.
Many people have proposed arguments against marriage for various reasons. These include political, philosophical and religious criticisms; concerns about the divorce rate, individual liberty and gender equality, and questioning of the necessity to have a personal relationship sanctioned by government or religious authorities; or the promotion of celibacy for religious or philosophical reasons.
An issue that is a serious concern regarding marriage and which has been the object of international scrutiny is that of sexual violence within marriage. Throughout much of the history, in most cultures, sex in marriage was considered a 'right', that could be taken by force, if 'denied'. As the concept of human rights started to develop in the 20th century, and with the arrival of second wave feminism, such views have become less widely held.
The legal and social concept of marital rape, has developed, in most industrialized countries, in the mid to late 20th century; and in many parts of the world it is still not recognized, socially and legally, as a form of abuse. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia made marital rape illegal before 1970, but other countries in Western Europe and the English-speaking Western World outlawed it much later, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In England and Wales, marital rape was made illegal in 1991. The views of Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th century jurist, published in The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736), stated that a husband cannot be guilty of the rape of his wife because the wife "hath given up herself in this kind to her husband, which she cannot retract"; in England and Wales this would remain law for more than 250 years, until it was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, in the case of R v R in 1991.
Although marital rape is being increasingly criminalized in developing countries too, cultural, religious, and traditional ideologies about "conjugal rights" remain very strong in many parts of the world; and even in many countries that have adequate laws against rape in marriage these laws are rarely enforced.
Apart from the issue of rape committed against one's spouse, marriage is, in many parts of the world, closely connected with other forms of sexual violence too: in some places, unmarried girls and women who are raped are often forced by their families to marry their rapist. Because being the victim of rape and losing virginity carry extreme social stigma, and the victims are deemed to have their "reputation" tarnished, a marriage with the rapist is arranged. This is claimed to be in the advantage of both the victim - who does not remain unmarried and doesn't lose social status - and of the rapist, who avoids punishment. In 2012, after a Moroccan 16-year-old girl committed suicide after having been forced by her family to marry her rapist, at the suggestion of the prosecutor, and having endured abuse by the rapist after they married, there have been protests from activists against the law which allows the rapist to marry the victim in order to escape criminal sanctions, and against this social practice which is common in Morocco.
During the 21st century, the laws surrounding marriage in many countries in the world have come to international scrutiny, because in many parts of the world these laws have been held to contradict international standards of human rights, and to institutionalize violence against women. Things that continue to be legal in parts of the world include: child marriage; forced marriage; the requirement that a husband give permission for his wife to work in a paid job, sign legal documents, file criminal charges against someone, sue in civil court etc.; the wife's property being administered by the husband himself; the use by husbands of violence to "discipline" their wives; marital rape; discriminatory laws regarding divorce etc.
Such things were legal even in many Western countries until recently: for instance, in France, married women obtained the right to work without their husband's permission in 1965, and in West Germany women obtained this right in 1977 (by comparison women in East Germany had much more rights). In Spain, during Franco's era, a married woman needed her husband's consent, referred to as the permiso marital, for almost all economic activities, including employment, ownership of property, and even traveling away from home; the permiso marital was abolished in 1975.
An absolute submission of a wife to her husband is accepted as natural in many parts of the world, for instance surveys by UNICEF have shown that the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is as high as 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Detailed results from Afghanistan show that 78.4% of women agree with a beating if the wife "goes out without telling him [the husband]" and 76.2% agree "if she argues with him".
In some countries of the world the laws go as far as allowing a husband to kill his wife, in certain circumstances, such as in case of adultery. In Haiti for instance, a husband has such a right: the criminal code excuses a husband who kills his wife or her lover if they are caught in his home, but a wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is subject to criminal prosecution.
Many controversies have arisen over the centuries in relation to marriage – including issues relating to the suitability of partners of different denominations, faiths, tribes or races, the acceptable number and minimum age of wives, the rights of partners, especially wives, and wider family obligations. For example, a contemporary controversy of particular significance in the USA concerns the exclusion of homosexual relationships from legal and social recognition and the rights and obligations it provides. Social conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage in some countries claim that any attempt to define marriage to include anything other than the union of one man and one woman would "deprive the term of its fundamental and defining meaning." In other countries, polygamy is a "socially conservative" practice. Advocates of same-faith marriage and same-race marriage may criticize the legalization of interfaith marriage and interracial marriage, respectively.
Often, in developed countries, opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and interfaith marriage are all legally recognized, while arranged and child marriages are illegal. On the other hand, often, in lesser-developed or developing countries, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and interfaith marriage may be illegal while arranged and child marriages are permitted.
The state of Massachusetts has sued the U.S. federal government over its definition of marriage. The lawsuit, brought by the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) infringed on a state's sovereign right to define marital status. The lawsuit alleges that DOMA infringed on a state's sovereign right to define marital status and is unconstitutional.
Feminist theory approaches opposite-sex marriage as an institution traditionally rooted in patriarchy that promotes male superiority and power over women. This power dynamic conceptualizes men as "the provider operating in the public sphere" and women as "the caregivers operating within the private sphere". "Theoretically, women ... [were] defined as the property of their husbands .... The adultery of a woman was always treated with more severity than that of a man." "[F]eminist demands for a wife's control over her own property were not met [in parts of Britain] until ... [laws were passed in the late 19th century]." This patriarchal dynamic is contrasted with a conception of egalitarian or Peer Marriage in which power and labour are divided equally, and not according to gender roles.
The performance of dominant gender roles by men and submissive gender roles by women influence the power dynamic of a marriage. In some American households, women internalize gender role stereotypes and often assimilate into the role of "wife", "mother", and "caretaker" in conformity to societal norms and their male partner. Author bell hooks states "within the family structure, individuals learn to accept sexist oppression as 'natural' and are primed to support other forms of oppression, including heterosexist domination." "[T]he cultural, economic, political and legal supremacy of the husband" was "[t]raditional ... under English law".
In the US, studies have shown that, despite egalitarian ideals being common, less than half of respondents viewed their opposite-sex relationships as equal in power, with unequal relationships being more commonly dominated by the male partner. Studies also show that married couples find the highest level of satisfaction in egalitarian relationships. In recent years, egalitarian or Peer Marriages have been receiving increasing focus and attention politically, economically and culturally in a number of countries, including the United States.
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