Marriage is a revered institution or so it seemed. But the way and manner many of this age are going about it leaves much to be desired. In what is fast becoming a generational shift by the younger people. The institution, if nothing is done to secure it might lose its essence in no distance time. What many now takes to be marriage rights is what ordinarily should have been the beginning point for intending couples. However, it has somewhat become a new fad to see young people, who perhaps on the fast lane rush into marriage by skipping the vitals. Jacinta, who was “married” to John, fits in perfectly here. On August 8, 2008, John and his family members were in Jecinta’s home for the mandatory introduction after a brief courtship. The introduction aspect of the marriage is about the first step an intending bridegroom will have to take if he has to be taken seriously.
The event brings the two families together in which the intending husband’s household will make their intentions known to the brides’ family officially. Questions are asked and other rituals observed according to the dictates of the particular culture before moving to the next step, which in most cultures, will be the bride price that the bridegroom will have to give.
It is usually after this that preparation for the weeding proper will commence. Unfortunately, John and Jacinta ignored all other marriage obligations as Jacinta got pregnant just after the introduction. Even at that many were still expecting them to swiftly tidy up the other demands before living together as husband and wife. But that was not to be. As the families were waiting to conclude what their cultures and traditions demands, Jacinta gave birth to a baby boy. “There was no point waiting to do all that the tradition demands after we had done the mandatory introduction.
We can conclude whatever remains whenever we have the means, after all, weed-ing is only compulsory for those who want that. As far as we are concerned our families are aware of our marriage and no one would deny giving us their blessings,” John said with Jacinta nodding in agreement. What John and Jacinta explained to mean marriage only exposed their understanding of what it is. But they are not alone on this. Many of their types are often found wanting on this.
But what constitute a proper marriage in Nigeria? A marriage counsellor, Dr. Victoria Olisama, though sees marriage to be a relationship between a man and a woman ordained by God to live together and have children; she said it goes beyond mere introduction or families knowing their children’s intentions. She said: “I think that young men of these days are much in a hurry to have children, because, in my own opinion they are usually overaged, and because of this they are eager to have children quickly so they rush into making their spouse pregnant as soon as they have their introduction done. “I am not in support of that; no one should be. It is not right. Proper things must be done at the proper time otherwise the essence of the institution would be destroyed.
This is why we counsel would be couples so that they would know that there are certain obligations they have to observe before they can live together as husband and wife. Anything short of the mandatory demands by both tradition and laws of the land will be termed an aberration.” Olisama however, said such practices are common now because of civilisation.
“To pay the bride price or dowry, and if you are a Christian, get a church wedding where the couple would receive blessings from God through the priest are prerequisite before they start their relationship as wedded couple. The Muslims also have a way they conduct their marriage too which adherents are supposed to abide with.” A priest in the Anglican Church, Rev. Timothy Iyasofia, told Saturday Telegraph that the scripture is not explicit regarding the issue of cohabitation. “But if you look at it, anything that is sinful is sinful. In the scriptures fornication is a sin and everybody knows it even those that are not Christians knows that it is a sin. Fornication and cohabitation are inseparable, meaning you cannot separate the two.
“Fornication has to do with a man or a woman having immorality together without normal marriage rights, and when you look at cohabitation, a man and a woman who are not legally married but living together under the same roof; if you marry the two together people will tell you that both are the same. There is no how a man and a woman who are not legally married would live together without committing immorality.
So, Christianity does not condole or accept it. “Speaking candidly, introduction is not marriage; it simply brings the families together. Although from then on both families are aware that the two people are intending to be married, since they have shown themselves to their families and made their intentions known to them.” Bishop Steven Ogedengbe was more succinct in his explanation. He said that any couple that fails to fulfill the bride price rituals is not married. “One can even skip the church or what many choose to refer to as white weeding. It is very crucial in marriage. So, the excuse of mere introduction is a lame one.If couples decide to have children after that they are only committing fornication and that cannot be regarded as marriage.
One can chose to legalise the marriage by going to registry to get it documented. Essentially, bride price is key here. “Unfortunately, many young adults believe cohabitation is a good way to test their relationships prior to marriage. Couples who have plans to marry before moving in together or who are engaged before cohabiting typically marry within two years of living together,” he added. However, Nigerian law envisages three types of marriages: Traditional/ Customary, Church/Islamic and statutory marriage. Customary is the body of unwritten norms, rules and regulations accepted by a community and recognised as binding on them.
It is the main source of Nigerian family law. A Lagos-based lawyer, Emmanuel Nwaghodoh, said that courtship is not marriage neither is a loose partnership of opposite sex marriage. “Living together and making of babies doesn’t connote marriage. Also, going to a church and being declared ‘man and woman’ without an earlier strict observance of legal marriage requirements is no marriage in the eyes of law. “No matter how valid a marriage is in the eyes of the couple, clergy, relatives, church and the society, it must equally be valid before the law for it to be legal.
The Bible urges us to respect laws and constituted authorities; for a marriage to be legal it must be in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act of 1949 except for traditional marriages, irrespective of the religious inclinations of the couples. “The legality of marriage may not border one now, until issues of rights, privileges, international employment, travel visa, will, inheritance, divorce, child custody, guardianship, annuity, insurance and burial arises. “It is a sacrosanct union that begets lots of rights, benefits, duties, privileges and responsibility for its couples and offspring of such union.
To say the least, couples (husbands and wives) are protected from certain criminal charges and responsibilities, their children enjoy exclusive rights to inheritance while native law and custom cannot bound or limit them. “In the eyes of the law, marriage is only what the law (Marriage Act) says it’s marriage. It is obvious, that in our present day Nigeria, many couples perform both English marriage (often referred to as ‘white wedding’ ‘church wedding’ and ‘court wedding’) and traditional marriage (often referred to as ‘Igba-nkwu’) in Igboland, to satisfy all interests and pressure.”
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