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Marriage by proxy is dying

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Marriage by proxy is dying

Marriage by proxy is not new to our world. It is inherent in many societies across all races of the world. In Africa, it was popular in the years past when parents were actively involved in the choices of life partners for their children. It was a norm for most parents to betroth their children to entrench friendship, business relationship and family affinity. It is similar to matchmaking but more complex and risky than any other forms of conjugal pairing arrangement.

A proxy marriage is a marriage where someone else stands in for the other party. That is, either the bride or the groom is not physically present for the wedding. During the solemnization of the marriage, based upon a ‘power of attorney’, choice of the absentee party or family consent, an agent acts on behalf of one of the parties. It is a way to be legally married while one of the couple is not physically present.

This does not rule out a proper wedding ceremony to take place later but if both partners are absent a double proxy wedding occurs. In some climes, marriage by proxy is not acceptable or recognized as legal or legitimate. It is acceptable in some other societies but based on some prescribed rules, terms and conditions.

For instance, a Nigerian citizen can marry a foreigner by proxy under customary law in a ceremony that is held in Nigeria. The validity of such a customary marriage in Nigeria does not depend on it being registered within 60 days In the United States, proxy marriages are provided for in law or by customary practice in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana.

Of these, Montana is the only state that allows double-proxy marriage. Proxy marriages cannot be solemnized in any other U.S state. During the early 1900s, United States proxy marriages increased significantly when many Japanese picture brides arrived at Angel Island, California. Since the early 20th century, it has been most commonly used in the United States for marriages where one partner is a member of the military on active duty. In California, proxy marriage is only available to deployed military personnel. In Montana, it is available if one partner is either on active military duty or is a Montana resident.

The American format indicate that if a proxy marriage has been performed in a state that legally allows it other states will recognize it fully or will recognize it as a common law marriage. The only exception is the state of Iowa where it is completely unrecognized. Conversely, Germany does not allow proxy marriages within its jurisdiction. It recognizes proxy marriages contracted elsewhere where this is possible, subject to the usual rules of private international law, unless the foreign law should be incompatible with German order public Article 6. However, Catholic Canon Law permits marriage by proxy, but requires officiating priests to receive authorization from the local authority before proceeding.

Marriage by proxy is usually resorted to either when a couple wish to marry but one or both partners cannot attend for reasons such as military service, imprisonment, or travel restrictions; or when a couple lives in a jurisdiction in which they cannot legally marry. Proxy weddings are not recognized as legally binding in some jurisdictions; both parties must be present.

Under the English common law, if a proxy marriage is valid by the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated (the lex loci celebrationis) then it will be recognised in England. In recent times, marriage by proxy is waning. Findings reveal that ills associated with the arrangement are largely responsible for its decline. I had witnessed a proxy marriage which broke up barely a year later due to issues bothering on infidelity. It was suspected that the bride was pregnant before joining her husband overseas because she gave birth to her first baby at the seventh month of staying with her husband.

It took native wisdom to handle the scandal as both families back home in Nigeria were at loggerheads. DNA wasn’t so popular then, when the groom’s family threatened to invoke the powers of their family god to do justice to the matter, the wife, in fear for her life, confessed to have slept with the surrogate husband (who stood in for her husband at the wedding). She was eventually sent packing with her baby. Another marriage by proxy had issue because the groom was not pleased with the physical appearance of his wife when they finally met. They were exchanging letters, photographs and once-in-a-while telephone calls in the mid-1980s.

His fantasy got deflated when he saw the woman in person. He refused to sleep with her until she returned to Nigeria to start life afresh. Many of the proxy marriages were initiated as subtle pressures by parents on their sons staying abroad so they don’t get stuck in ‘strange lands’ by marrying the natives of their host nations. Recent happenings point to the fact that many men don’t like to settle for their fellow countrywomen sojourning together abroad because of ‘over protective legal provisions’ which some women wield to inflict pain and deprivation on their men whenever they have crisis. Women abroad are exposed to social, criminal and exploitative tendencies of the western nations but they believe that homegroomed women are more cultured, amendable and controllable. Sometimes, men do ask their people back home to get good women for them to marry.

In the process, where they couldn’t travel home for the solemnization of the marriage, younger brothers, close or trusted friends could stand in for the bridegroom at the ceremony. Women also do scout for husbands in the same fashion but they rarely get married by proxy unlike men. Women usually find their way home to meet their men in persons.

It is only in few cases that you have someone else representing them. While I think it is a good development that marriage by proxy is being discarded as we now live in a world where technology and science have made our generation live in a global community, lack of parental involvement in the choice of life partners is also a reason for increasing failed marriages.

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  1. Pingback: Today’s New Telegraph Newspaper Headlines Friday 24th May 2019

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