Marriage and the Ghanaian Law
By Kharisa Agyemang
Essentially, there are three types of marriages recognised under Ghanaian Law and these are:
- Part One Marriages; known as the Customary marriage.
- Part Two Marriages; known as Islamic Marriage.
- Part Three Marriages; known as Ordinance marriage.
All these marriages are recognised under Ghanaian Law so far as the requirements for each of them are followed.
ESSENTIALS OF CUSTOMARY LAW MARRIAGE
The absence of documents evidencing a customary marriage presents the courts with difficult problems when they are faced with the question whether a traditional marriage exists or not, and such questions normally arise in situations involving inheritance and succession.
Under Ghanaian law, a marriage contracted traditionally is seen as valid if all the formalities required for making the marriage valid are performed and this may differ depending on the tribe or ethnic group that the person comes from.
That notwithstanding, there are some common formalities that must be present before the marriage contracted customarily will be seen as valid and these are:
- Agreement by the parties to live together as husband and wife.
- Consent of the family of the man that he should have the woman as his wife(and this can be indicated by the man’s family acknowledging the woman as the wife of the man).
- Consent of the family of the woman that she should be joined together in marriage with the man(and this is indicated by the acceptance of a drink from the man and his family/acknowledging him as the husband)
- Consummation of the marriage.
If any of these essentials are missing, it will be quite difficult to establish that there has been a valid customary law marriage contracted between the two parties.
NATURE OF CUSTOMARY LAW MARRIAGE
The main feature of customary law marriage is the fact that it is potentially POLYGAMOUS and the man is free to marry as many women as he wants so far as he performs all the formalities required.
STAGES OF CONTRACTING A CUSTOMARY LAW MARRIAGE
As mentioned earlier, the stages of contracting a Customary Law marriage differs from one tribe or ethnic group to the other. Typically, the following stages occur:
This entails an official visit from the man’s family to the woman’s to officially ask for the woman’s hand in marriage. Usually, the delegation is accompanied by drinks and any other requirements that are deemed acceptable according to the traditions of the particular tribe or ethnic group.
The man’s family are then briefed or handed the traditional requirements for marrying a woman from a particular ethnic group. A list of sorts detailing the amount of dowry to be paid as bride price and other items needed are handed to the man’s family for their action.
Some tribes or ethnic groups decide on the date for the ceremony at the knocking stage while others schedule another meeting to decide on the date when the required items are ready.
The two families meet at this stage to contract the marriage by the man’s family presenting the required items for a thorough inspection.
The marriage becomes duly contracted and operational when the woman’s family accept the items presented and hands over the woman to her husband and his family.
3. REGISTRATION OF CUSTOMARY LAW MARRIAGES
As stated before hand, the absence of documents evidencing the existence of a customary law marriage poses a lot of problems for the parties involved. It is for this reason that the lawmakers saw it fit to enact a law to protect persons who contract customary law marriages. This law affords them the opportunity to register their marriage and afford them the opportunity to prove that their marriage exists in the event questions arise as to the existence/validity of the marriage.
CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE (REGISTRATION) LAW, 1985 (PNDCL 112)
This governs the registration of customary law marriages and divorce and there are some legal requirements that must be followed before a certificate of registration is issued.
PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS OF REGISTRATION
1. Written application to the Registrar of Marriages (of the District where the marriage was contracted) for the registration of the CL marriage. This can be done at any time after the marriage has been contracted.
2. Attached to the application is a statutory declaration stating the names of the parties to the marriage, their place of residence at the time of the marriage and a declaration that all the essentials relating to the validity of the marriage has been complied with. (The statutory declaration must be supported by the parents of the spouses or persons standing in as parents).
3. The Registrar, after receiving the application, registers the marriage and puts a notice of the Registration on the public notice board for a period of 28 days
Anyone who has any objection to the registration of the marriage shall register his objection within the 28 day period for the objection to be heard; and if there is a legal basis for the objection, the names of the spouses shall be expunged from the Register.
The fact that the customary law has been registered however doesn’t make it monogamous. It still retains its POLYGAMOUS NATURE even after the registration.
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