Everything you need to know about marriage in Djibouti

27 Jul 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Djibouti 01

Djibouti is an East African country popularly referred to as the "Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura" as a result of its location. Thousands of marriages are performed every year in the country by Djiboutians and foreigners from other countries. Djibouti is famous for its rich culture and traditions. In the country, marriages are either solemnized in a civil, religious, or traditional ceremony. Civil marriages are performed according to the civil laws of the country, while traditional and religious marriages are conducted based on the societal customs or religious beliefs of the spouses. 

Djibouti is mainly composed of two ethnic groups, which are the Somali and the Afar. They are also the most widely spoken languages; however, the country has many languages spoken throughout it. The official languages in Djibouti are Arabic and French, and marriage ceremonies are mostly performed in either of them. According to the penal codes of the country, any form of discrimination against a person due to their sex, customs and traditions, political and religious beliefs, family, social status, or disability is punishable and can result in the payment of fines and imprisonment of up to two years. All couples who want to be legally recognized in the country must perform civil marriages because this is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Djibouti. 

Spouses are free to marry in any way they want based on their personal preferences or religious and traditional beliefs. However, these other marriages must only be performed after a civil marriage has been concluded. In Djibouti, the judicial system is based on the French civil code. The basis of the family and personal status laws is formed in accordance with the principles of Sharia because Islam is the official religion of the country. As you read on, you will find out more about the various marriage customs and traditions in Djibouti. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

A civil marriage in Djibouti is performed by the mayor at the ministry of interior. This is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Djibouti. For a couple to enjoy the marriage rights and benefits in their country, they must get married civilly. All civil marriages performed in Djibouti are recognized in other African countries and the rest of the world. The minimum marriage age for both spouses who want to get married in the country is 18 years. This allows for both foreigners and native Djiboutians. 

If a spouse has not reached this age, they may still be allowed to perform a marriage in the country, provided that they are not below the age of 16. All minors getting married in Djibouti must provide parental consent. When parental consent is unavailable or has been declined, a judge's approval may suffice. Generally, the country uses Sharia law for family matters, and the only parental consent needed is that of the father of such a spouse. Spouses must begin their marriage application and registration process by going to the nearest ministry of interior office in the region or municipality where they reside to make inquiries regarding the exact documents, they must submit considering their current status in the country. 

Different spouses may be required to submit slightly varying documents, especially when they are foreigners. Nevertheless, there are certain mandatory documents that all marriage officers across the country request, such as a means of identification. The means of identification submitted must be valid and recent. After all the required documents are compiled, spouses are required to submit them with an application for a marriage license at the ministry of interiors office. Marriage officials will then review and assess all the submitted documents to ensure that all the information and documents check out. After this is completed at the office of population, it will be up to the marriage officer to decide if he or she is convinced about the validity of both spouses to perform the marriage ceremony. 

An appointment date is then scheduled by the officer and the spouses for when the mayor will perform the marriage ceremony. In Djibouti, couples are usually able to obtain the marriage certificate immediately after the ceremony is concluded. All documents obtained from foreign countries must be notarized and apostilled to show they are legally binding. French and Arabic are the official languages of the country, and documents submitted must be in either or both of these languages. Spouses who do not understand French or Arabic may hire an interpreter during the course of the ceremony. The following documents are required for both spouses getting married:

Documents Required

  • A valid means of identification
  • Proof of birth and age of both spouses A birth certificate must be submitted by both spouses.
  • Pre-marital medical examination certificate This document will show that both spouses are medically fit and compatible for marriage.
  • Certificate of marriage eligibility. This document must show that both spouses are not facing any restrictions or prohibitions that could prevent the marriage from happening.
  • Foreign applicants are required to provide proof of residence in Djibouti.
  • Both partners are required to provide a copy of their marriage contract.
  • Previously married spouses must provide a marriage certificate obtained religiously or traditionally.

Religious and traditional marriages

In Djibouti, couples have the freedom to perform marriages in accordance with their religious beliefs or the customs of their ethnicity. Djibouti is an Islamic country, and the laws guiding the act of marriage are based on the principles of sharia. The total population of Muslims in the country is about 94 percent, and Christians account for 6 percent. Even though the country is an Islamic state, spouses have the freedom to practice any type of religion they prefer. Religious and traditional marriages performed in Djibouti are neither recognized nor protected under the laws of the country. 

In Djibouti, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman; however, this same law does not apply to women in the country. A Muslim woman is prohibited from getting married to a Muslim man unless the man is ready to convert to Islam. Societal customs are often mixed with the religious ceremonial rites in the country. The consent of parents plays a major role because marriages are not recognized if the parents do not give their blessings. Muslim marriages include a marriage agreement that must be signed by both spouses and their witnesses before they are allowed to marry. Generally, Muslim marriages last for several days in the country.

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Marriage traditions in Djibouti

Diq 

In Djibouti, Somali wedding ceremonies often include the "Diq," which refers to a dish that is prepared using small pieces of meat wrapped in date paste. This dish is usually prepared by the bride's mother and other female relatives for the wedding ceremony, and it is enjoyed by both family and friends.

Dirac

In traditional weddings in the country, the native attire women wear during the wedding ceremony is known as "dirac." The outfit includes a long voile dress made of polyester or cotton. Djiboutians are known to wear a lot of jewelry too. The Dirac is often worn over a full-length waistslip and a bra.

Exchange of gifts

In the wedding reception of Djiboutian ceremonies, it is customary for the guests to give the newlyweds gifts before they leave the reception. Gifts can be presented in any form, and they range from appliances to livestock to money, etc.

Same-sex marriages 

The status of homosexuality and same-sex sexual activities in Djibouti is ambiguous. The constitution of the country has not clearly stated whether same-sex marriages are legal or illegal. However, same-sex sexual activities are still being prosecuted all over the country. LGBT members face discrimination and legal consequences in the country.

Polygamy in Djibouti

Polygamy has existed in Djiboutian countries for many years. The country allows polygamous relationships and marriages. In Djibouti, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives, provided he treats them equally and fairly. This is done in accordance with Sharia law.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Djibouti is a predominantly Muslim country; however, the country respects the religious beliefs of other people in the country. The laws of marriage in Djibouti are regulated by the family code of the country. Under the laws of marriage, marriage must only be contracted between a man and a woman who are eligible for marriage. Eligibility is determined by a number of factors, such as the legal age for marriage and the state of mind of couples. The groom and bride must be at least 18 years old to be able to get married. Persons who are under the age of 18 may be allowed to get married, provided they have parental consent. The laws of marriage in Djibouti require more from women than men. Before a woman can get married in a country, her legal guardian must give consent to the union, whether she is a minor or not. 

In many cases, the legal guardian is always the father, but in his absence, her brother, grandfather, uncle, or any male relative must give consent on her behalf. In any situation where the legal guardian refuses to give consent to marriage, the court may waive the requirement and allow the marriage to take place. There must be at least two witnesses present at the marriage ceremony. The witnesses must also be at least 18 years old and have valid identification documents. In Djibouti, a woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam, while a man is allowed to marry anyone he wishes to. Polygamy is legal under the law in Djibouti. 

A man is allowed to marry more than one wife, up to four wives, provided he has the means to take care of them and he promises to treat them equally. The law only demands that the wife or wives be single (unmarried, divorced, or widowed); they must not be in any existing marriage. The husband and wife are required by law to provide valid identity documentation, which must be verified before marriage can take place. The law demands that before marriage can take place, the dowry, also known as mahr, must have been set in place, as the payment of dowry determines the validity of the marriage. Same-sex couples are not allowed to contract marriage in Djibouti; there is no specific law that states that it is prohibited, nor is there any law that states that it is permitted.

Rights

The Constitution of the country of Djibouti guarantees the equal rights of the husband and wife in accordance with the dictates of Sharia law. In marriage, the husband is considered superior; therefore, he has access to more rights than the wife. He has the right to perform talaq, where he can divorce his wife without any justification, whereas the wife only has the right to file for divorce under certain circumstances. Men generally have an advantage when it comes to finalizing divorce. 

The husband also has the right to be recognized as the head of the household, thereby excluding the wife from the decision-making process. Wives are seen as subordinate and do not have access to a lot of rights in marriage. The couple has the right to inherit, but the wife only inherits half of what a man inherits. Spouses have the right to raise children according to their various religious and moral beliefs without any restrictions. The law also guarantees the husband and wife the same right to be able to change, acquire, or confer their nationality on foreign spouses or children. 

They also both have the right to work and earn meaningful payment for that work without facing any form of discrimination at the workplace. The husband has the right to stop his wife from working if he believes it is affecting her roles and responsibilities in the home. The husband and wife have the right to vote and be voted for; they both have the right to run for government offices. The husband has the right to be recognized as the legal guardian of the children. The husband and wife both have the right to exercise parental authority over the children.

Costs

Verification of documentation and Getting married civilly in Djibouti at the office of the mayor costs around 50,000 DJF, which is approximately $283. Many couples wish to have a small and intimate ceremony, while some decide to have more lavish ceremonies. The total cost of a wedding ceremony in Djibouti is determined by a number of factors, such as the financial ability of the couple, the number of invited guests, and the size of the wedding. 

The cost of music and entertainment at an average wedding is estimated to be around $100 for hiring a DJ; it could cost more if a band is being hired. The average cost of a hotel room in Djibouti is around $283 per night, which suggests that couples tend to spend more on accommodation and renting wedding venues.

Duties

The Family Code spells out the duties and responsibilities of couples in marriage. Some of the duties of couples are that they must show each other mutual respect, be faithful to one another, and provide mutual help and assistance for one another. that the husband and wife must fulfill their conjugal duties and ensure that they are both available for one another at all times. Not only should the wife respect her husband, she is also obligated to obey him at all times as he is the head of the household. 

The husband is responsible for marriage expenses; the provision of the needs of his wife and children falls on his shoulders. The wife may decide to contribute to the marriage expenses if she has the means, but the role is solely for the husband. The wife is also responsible for properly managing the home; the cooking, cleaning, and all domestic housework fall on her shoulders. The husband might decide to help by providing help when needed. They must also ensure that the children have a good and conducive environment for growth and development. The husband and wife must ensure that the family is protected from any form of harm or disrespect.

Final Thoughts 

Djibouti has several unique customs and traditions that are performed during wedding ceremonies. In the Afar community, it is common for newlyweds to have a fight on the first night of their marriage. This is often referred to as an "honor fight."

In this marital fight, the man is expected to win the battle so as to keep his wife and show respect to his family and tribe. If he loses the fight, he would have brought shame to his family, and this may affect the foundations of such a marriage. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Djibouti.

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