Everything you need to know about marriage in Chad

30 Jun 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Chad 01

Chad, officially the Republic of Chad, is a Central African country popular for its richness in gold and uranium. The country allows both foreigners and Chadian nationals to conduct marriages every year. Chad uses the French civil code of 1958, and under French law, marriage is based on consent and both the man and woman are afforded equal rights in the union. The country recognizes three major types of marriages, namely civil, customary, and traditional marriages. Although customary and religious marriages must be registered with the civil authorities in the country, the laws guiding them are parallel to those of the civil law. 

This implies that customary and religious marriages are governed by laws that have been laid down by the customs of the region or the religious bodies in that state. Only civil marriages are primarily governed by the civil code. This has caused a detriment to the human rights of women in the country. Under the civil laws, the man and woman are recognized as equals, and either of them can initiate divorce or annulment of the marriage, but this is not the case in customary marriages. Most customary marriages will not let a woman seek divorce, and even if she does, she will end up losing so much. The custody of children is often left to the woman until the children are up to 7 years old, when it is solely transferred to the man. 

In Chad, the minimum marriage age is 18 years. At the age of 21, both male and female spouses have the freedom to marry without parental consent, but spouses between the ages of 18 and 21 are required to obtain parental consent before they get married. The previous minimum marriage age in the country used to be 15 years old before a new bill was passed. However, this new marriage age has still not totally prevented spouses from conducting marriages at ages below 15 years old. Continue reading to find out more about marriage in Chad.

Civil marriages 

Marriages performed by an authorized registrar or marriage officer in the civil registry are recognized and protected under Chadian law. Civil marriages can be conducted by both native Chadians and foreigners. It is the most explored marriage option by foreigners because they may not have traditional ties or religious affiliations in Chad, and these are generally not required under the civil code governing civil marriages in Chad. Couples who want to get married in the country are required to obtain a marriage application. A notice of marriage must be given by the couple, in which they announce to the general public that they are getting married. The notice of marriage may be published by the marriage officer and appear in the local newspaper or on a notice board. 

There is often a waiting period during which the registrar checks to see if anyone comes forward with any information that can obstruct the marriage and prevent it from happening. Foreign spouses are required to submit a single status certificate during the marriage application and registration process. This documentation will serve as proof that they were single at the time of their marriage. Generally, Chad allows polygamous marriages, but the man must state what form of marriage he will be practicing before the formal marriage ceremony. A man can either choose to be in a monogamous or polygamous marriage. To perform a civil marriage, both spouses are required to have reached the age of 21. If parental consent is provided, spouses aged 18 and older may be allowed to marry. 

Child, early, and forced marriages have been a major issue in Chad. Chad holds the third position in the number of countries with the highest rate of child marriages in the world, with over 70 percent child brides. Over 18 percent of the total number of marriages are performed by spouses who are under the age of 15. This has affected the lives of young women over the years in Chad, and some efforts have been made such as raising the minimum marriage age; however, it has not made much difference. The country also uses customary laws, and in some Islamic regions, female children are married off as soon as they hit puberty. 

There is a high level of gender inequality in the country, which has contributed to the high number of child marriages. Under the civil code, spouses below the minimum marriage age are strictly not allowed to marry, and this applies to Chadians and foreigners from other countries. Marriage is not allowed between spouses who are related by a direct link or affinity. A civil marriage will not take place when the male and female spouses are siblings by blood or adoption. The registrar will not perform a civil marriage if either of the spouses does not give their free consent to the union. Before the couple is able to obtain a marriage certificate, there are some documents that must be submitted during the marriage registration procedures. These are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • National Identity Card or valid passport
  • Copies of government-issued birth certificates from both spouses
  • Proof of address Most times, this only applies to foreign spouses, and the document serves as proof that they were living in Chad prior to the marriage application.
  • Divorce or death certificate. This applies to spouses who were previously married. The certificate must be submitted as proof that they terminated the previous marriage legally.
  • Spouses who changed their names prior to the marriage are required to submit a deed poll to this effect.
  • Both spouses are required to provide two witnesses.
  • A written paper ram consent must be provided by spouses who have not reached the age of 21.  

Customary and religious marriages

Customary and religious marriages are recognized in Chad. The laws primarily governing the act of marriage under custom or religious beliefs are different from those of civil marriage. Unlike in civil marriages, where the male and female spouses are regarded as equals, the reverse is the case in most customary marriages in Chad. 

The country runs a patriarchal system, and men are the heads of families who are in charge of all family affairs. There are over 150 ethnic groups in Chad. The country is one of the most diverse countries in Africa in terms of ethnicity, and various ethnic groups have their own unique methods of performing marriages. Marriages are elaborate occasions, and the ceremonies can last up to several days with different types of parties at the respective houses of the bride and groom.

Islam is the largest religion in the country, with over 55 percent of the total population, followed by Christianity. Christianity in Chad consists mostly of two denominations: The Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. Most Islamic marriages are often performed in a modest manner, but it is common for all forms of religious marriage to have a wedding feast after the actual ceremony is concluded.

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Marriage traditions in Chad

Dowry 

Dowry is a very important aspect of marriages in Chad. The groom is required to seek the approval of the bride's family, and if they accept, he is presented with a dowry, which must be paid before he is allowed to marry their daughter. The dowry may include livestock or money.

Rabott 

In traditional marriages in Chad, it is customary for Muslim women to wear wraps around their upper bodies. This is known as Rabott, and it is usually worn with a short-sleeved blouse. The woman's outfit is supposed to be unique and colorful to make her stand out from the crowd.

Wedding ceremony 

Chadian wedding ceremonies often include a lot of ceremonial rites during and after the wedding. Upon the conclusion of the church wedding, the families and other attendees will proceed to the wedding reception in a different venue, where the partying continues. The reception often runs late into the night.

Same-sex marriages

The status of homosexuality in Chad became illegal in 2017. Before this year, same-sex sexual activities were never criminalized, but this has changed. The country prohibits any form of marriage, union, or partnership between two people of the same sex, and the penalty can be up to three years of imprisonment.

Polygamy in Chad

Polygamous marriages are legal in Chad. A man is allowed to marry more than one wife. The sharia laws in the country allow a man to marry up to four wives, provided he treats them equally. According to estimates, a third of the women in Chad live in polygamous marriages.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The French civil code of 1958 regulates the act and process of contracting marriage in Chad. Both men and women are permitted to contract marriage in the country provided they have reached the legal age for marriage, which is set at 18 years. No exceptions are made for minors who wish to be married in Chad. All citizens must have reached the legal age for marriage before they can be married, and there are punishments for anyone who allows the marriage of a minor. Despite the laws and punishments attached to child marriage in the country, it is still widely practiced. In the same light, the law of marriage in Chad states that marriage must be contracted with the consent of the groom and bride without the use of force, threats, or any influence from third parties. However, the law does not specify what punishments people who engage in forced marriages face. 

Before marriage can take place, the husband and wife must be capable and in a stable state of mind to be able to contract marriage in Chad; if it is perceived that one of the couple is not mentally stable, the marriage would not be allowed to take place. The law allows the practice of polygamy: a man is allowed to marry more than one wife at once, but a woman is not permitted to do the same. In Chad, customary marriages, religious marriages, and civil marriages are all recognized under the law. Couples who contract customary or religious marriages are required by law to register their marriage at the civil registry in the presence of a civil registrar, and they must be accompanied by two witnesses who would testify to the authenticity of the consent given by the couple. 

Under customary laws, levirate marriages, where a female widow is forced to marry the brother of her deceased husband, are allowed. In Chad, where informal or de facto unions are against the law, couples who wish to be recognized as husband and wife must be officially married to enjoy the benefits and rights available to citizens in marriage. Mixed marriages between Chadians and foreigners are allowed, but the foreigner must be able to submit all required documents, such as a certificate of no legal impediment to marriage, a valid birth certificate, a copy of their passport, etc. Foreigners must also be permitted to contract marriage in their home country to be able to marry in Chad; anyone who is not permitted to contract marriage in his or her home country would not be allowed to contract marriage in Chad under any circumstances.

Rights

Under the law of marriage in Chad, the husband and wife are believed to have the same rights in marriage, irrespective of their gender roles, but there are some inequalities faced by women in marriage, such as the right to choose their residence. The husband has the sole right to decide the residence of the family; therefore, the wife is obligated to live with her husband in the chosen family home. Despite the limitation to this right, the husband and wife both have the same right to be recognized as the legal guardians of the children and also perform their roles accordingly; they are granted the right to exercise parental authority when necessary. The law guarantees the right of the couple to work and receive equal remuneration for work done without any discrimination due to their marital status. 

Once a family is established, the husband and wife are entitled to receive support and assistance from the government as well as social protection. The rights of the husband and wife must be respected by both couples at all times. Couples have the right to freedom of movement and liberty; either partner has the right to move around as he or she pleases without having to receive permission from the other. Wives, like husbands, have the same right to divorce based on either one of the couple's incompetence or mutual agreement. The law demands the same requirements from the husband and wife to be able to finalize the divorce. However, in polygamous marriages, the first wife is required to give up her dowry and pay it back to her husband's family. 

After the divorce is finalized, the couple has equal custody and visitation rights over the children, but before the custody of the children is decided, the court must first take the best interests of the children into consideration and grant custody to the parent who has the children's best interests at heart. At the same time, the husband and wife have the right to be involved in politics and government without any restrictions; they can run for official positions in government where they would be able to exercise their political and civil rights, such as the right to vote and be voted for.

Costs

Every couple hopes to have a modern wedding that would be the talk of the town, but they are often held back by the cost of hosting a wedding, and many couples in Chad often face this dilemma. The average cost of hosting a wedding in Chad is estimated to be around $5,000, depending on how lavish and extravagant the couple wants the wedding to be. More financially stable couples often spend more on their weddings in order to be able to achieve all that they have in mind. 

Before the actual wedding takes place, the payment for the bride price must have taken place; the husband is responsible for paying the bride price. The average cost of renting a hotel room for guests in Chad is around $125 per night. This cost is not fixed, however; the price varies depending on the location and reputation of the hotel. The food and drinks at the event, the venue rental, the music and entertainment at the event, as well as the gifts for guests, all add up to the total cost of the wedding budget.

Duties

The traditional Chadian family is founded on stereotypical gender roles, whereby the duties and responsibilities of the couple are determined by their various natural roles. The husband is recognized as the head of the home; therefore, he is expected to be dominant, self-reliant, and  deciding the domicile residence of the family, he must be able to ensure that the needs of the family are met at all times. 

Wives are responsible for taking on more indoor roles such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children and their husband. taking care of visitors and her in-laws as well. She must be very hospitable and kind. Both the husband and wife must ensure that they are both committed to the marriage and provide proper assistance and help for one another when needed. They must be able to protect one another and provide basic amenities for the family.

Final Thoughts 

Chad is a very diverse country, and marriages are performed in various unique ways based on the customs and traditions of the spouses. Even though the marriage age in the country is higher than that of most other African countries, there is still a high level of child marriages.

The minimum legal marriage age was increased from 15 to 18 years; however, this did not have much effect on reducing child marriages in the country. Chad allows foreigners to perform marriages, but an important document that must be submitted by them during the civil marriage registration is the single status certificate. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Chad.

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