Everything you need to know about marriage in Equatorial Guinea

5 Jun 2023·23 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Equatorial Guinea 01

Equatorial Guinea is a central African country popular for its cultural diversity. The country is officially known as the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and thousands of marriages are performed each year by Equatorial Guineans and other foreigners who visit the country for tourism or a destination wedding. The three main types of marriages that are performed in the country are civil, religious, and common-law marriages. These three types of marriage hold legal grounds in the country; however, the procedures for practicing them are quite different. Civil marriages are popular options for Equatorial Guineans, mainly because of the low cost of performing them. 

Generally, spouses only need to pay certain fees for documents that must be submitted during the marriage registration. The fees paid usually amount to very little when compared to religious marriages. Common-law marriages are the most cost-effective form of marriage in the country. They have existed since antiquity, and many marriages in Equatorial Guinean communities are common law, in which a man and a woman begin to regard each other as husband and wife without a formal marriage. Under some religious faiths, marriage must be performed in the couple's place of worship for them to be regarded as being officially married. 

This implies that some religions may require couples to perform marriages in the religious place of worship even if a civil or common-law marriage has already been performed. This is not a civil law requirement under the general laws of the country, though. The legal marriage age in Equatorial Guinea is 18 years, and this applies to both spouses. Only under special circumstances will a judge allow a minor to perform a marriage in the country. The rest of the article will tell you more about marriages in Equatorial Guinea and the laws guiding them. Let’s get started.

 Civil marriages

A civil marriage performed in Equatorial Guinea is legally binding and recognized in the country and other countries around the world. Foreign spouses from other countries who are getting married to a fellow foreigner or an Equatorial Guinean national are allowed to perform a civil marriage. For a marriage to be performed civilly, it must be performed by a state-authorized notary or registrar in the civil registry. There are certain conditions that must be followed by spouses before they are allowed to perform a civil marriage. Most of these marriage conditions are similar to those of other African countries. 

Spouses getting married are not allowed to be related to each other by a degree of consanguinity or affinity. Spouses cannot get married to their siblings or parents, even if they are adopted and not blood relatives. During the marriage registration process, the registrar has the responsibility of verifying all the documents submitted and doing background checks where necessary to determine if there are any issues that can render the spouses ineligible for marriage. Marriage between siblings is not taken lightly and often results in the termination or invalidity of such marriages. 

The laws guiding the number of wives a man can have are also quite different in Equatorial Guinea. Under the customary laws, a man can have multiple wives; however, polygamy is not allowed in civil marriages. This means that a person who is already married is not allowed to enter into a new marriage. A previous marriage must be terminated before entering a new one. To begin the marriage registration process, the parties must submit a marriage application and appear before a judge or officer of the civil registry. They must also be accompanied by two legal witnesses. 

The registrar or judge will ask the couple if they are entering the marriage as a result of their own free will and consent. Forced marriages are not permitted in Equatorial Guinea. If both spouses agree that they have given free consent, the marriage registration process then goes further, and the registrar joins them as husband and wife. After the ceremony, the couple is able to obtain a marriage certificate from the registrar, who must also ensure the marriage is entered into the civil registry. The documents that must be submitted by spouses getting married are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • Both spouses are required to provide copies of their birth certificate with their name as it appears on it and that of their parents.
  • A national ID or valid passport must be submitted by spouses as described in the application.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Either of these documents must be submitted by spouses who are separated or widowed as proof of the dissolution of their previous marriage.
  • Proof of single status. This document must be provided by both spouses, especially when they are foreigners. It demonstrates that the spouses are eligible for marriage because they are single and have no other relationships in Equatorial Guinea or elsewhere.
  • Payment of all required fees. The spouses may be asked to provide payment receipts as well as documents obtained from authorities at the embassy or consulate by a foreign spouse. The official languages in Equatorial Guinea are Spanish, French, and Portuguese. If any of the submitted documents are not in one of the above-mentioned languages, they must be translated and apostille by an accredited translator.

Religious or canonical marriages

Religious marriages are recognized and protected under the laws of the country. The main religion in the country is Christianity. Others include Islam, local traditions, and atheists. The largest Christian denomination in the country is the Roman Catholic Church, and a lot of Equatorial Guineans perform marriages according to the principles laid out by the church. Church marriages are very common in the country, and most times, all of the marriage conditions in accordance with civil marriages are required, but with the addition of some criteria.

Catholic churches require both spouses to be baptized before they are allowed to marry in the church. They must be able to submit evidence of their baptism, holy communion, and confirmation. Church marriages usually take only a few hours and are often followed by a party in a different venue.

Common-law Marriages 

Common-law marriages are accepted in Equatorial Guinea. With this kind of marriage, a man and a woman are able to declare themselves a married couple without holding any form of official marriage ceremony. Common-law marriages are also referred to as "non-ceremonial marriages." 

This type of marriage is neither recorded in the civil nor religious registries, and generally, it does not hold all the rights and benefits enjoyed by formally married spouses in the country. In some cases, government or employment benefits for married couples may not be available to spouses who are cohabiting and have held no formal marriage ceremony.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Equatorial Guinea 02

Marriage traditions in Equatorial Guinea

Bride Price 

In Equatorial Guinea, traditional and customary marriages usually include the payment of a bride price by the groom's family to the bride's family. In the pre-wedding phase, after the groom asks for the bride's hand in marriage, he is presented with a list of items that must be provided before he is allowed to marry the bride.

Wedding Ceremony

Wedding ceremonies in Equatorial Guinea are usually colorful and lengthy. Most ceremonies often begin with a church service that is held in the morning, and the custom is for the service to begin with a wedding procession. The groom and his best man often enter the church from the side, while the rest of the wedding party, including the bride and her family, enter through the main door and walk down the aisle.

Wedding Reception 

Wedding receptions usually take place after the civil ceremony or church service is completed. At the wedding reception, different types of games and ceremonial rites are performed, and they usually include hours of feasting and dancing. Some receptions can take up to eight hours or more.

Same-sex marriages and polygamy in Equatorial Guinea

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Equatorial Guinea. In our country, marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and anything outside this box is invalid. Having a homosexual status is legal; however, households cannot be headed by same-sex couples.

Polygamous marriages are very common in Equatorial Guinea. Even though the laws of the country do not allow a man or woman to have more than one spouse at a time, polygamy is still widespread. Under the civil laws of the country, all marriages must be between a man and a woman; however, the customary laws allow men to have two wives or more.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The laws of marriage in Equatorial Guinea are founded on civil law, but there is a touch of customary law in the rules and regulations that guide the process of marriage in the country. Therefore, not only is civil marriage recognized as legally binding in the country, but also customary marriages, religious marriages, and common-law unions are legal in Equatorial Guinea. Marriage in Equatorial Guinea is expected to be contracted voluntarily; consent must be obtained from the husband and wife before it can be declared legally binding. Any marriage in which consent was obtained with the use of force or violence is considered void as both parties did not consent to the marriage of their own free will; additionally, any marriage contracted without the consent of the husband and wife is also declared void. 

Registration of marriage is only possible with civil and religious marriages; customary marriages and informal unions are allowed under the law, but they are almost allowed to be registered at the civil registry. The legal age for marriage in Equatorial Guinea is 18 years for both men and women; exceptions are made for persons who are underage but wish to enter into marriage, provided a judge gives permission for such a marriage to take place. Marriage between minors who do not have the permission of a judge is considered a criminal offense, and anyone who conducts such a marriage is liable to face punishment such as payment of fines, etc. Despite these laws and punishments, child marriage is still prevalent in the country, and it is often contracted under customary laws. 

Foreigners are allowed to enter into marriage in Equatorial Guinea, but if a foreigner is not allowed to enter into marriage in his or her home country, he or she is also not allowed to seek asylum in order to contract marriage in Equatorial Guinea. The laws of marriage in foreign countries also apply to the marriage of foreigners in Equatorial Guinea. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Equatorial Guinea, but same-sex activity is legal; homosexual couples are permitted to engage in same-sex activities, but they face a variety of forms of discrimination in society. As stated earlier, the law allows common-law unions, in which a man and woman who wish to be recognized as husband and wife but do not want to be formally married are allowed to live together and enjoy certain rights and protections that are available to married couples. 

Polygamy is illegal according to the law of the country; however, it is widely practiced. It is one of the customs and traditions that are still well practiced in the country. Levirate marriages are also commonplace in the country; the widow of the deceased husband is required to marry her brother-in-law. Marriage between persons who share a familial bond or link is prohibited in the country; siblings are not permitted to marry one another, and exceptions are only made in cases of sororate or levirate marriages. Both the husband and wife have to be single at the time of marriage registration; they must be able to prove their marital status and show that there is no legal impediment to marriage. They must also be free of any existing marriages. This law not only applies to nationals, but it also affects foreigners as well.

Rights

In Equatorial Guinea, husband and wife do not have the same rights and benefits in marriage. Women's rights are often restricted, limited, and infringed upon, while the husband has access to all the rights in marriage. Once marriage is registered, the man and woman are recognized as husband and wife. The husband has the right to enter into marriage with more than one woman without any consequences, whereas the woman is prohibited from exercising this right. The right to be recognized as the legal guardian of the children only resides with the husband; the wife is only seen as the primary caregiver in the home. 

When it comes to making important decisions concerning the welfare of the family, such as the family's residence, the right to make such decisions lies with the husband; the wife is not included in this decision-making process. Both the husband and wife have the right to work and earn meaningful pay for that work, but the permission to work must be gotten from the husband before a woman is allowed to exercise her right to work. Many women in Equatorial Guinea do not bother to exercise this right because they are frequently reminded of their domestic responsibilities or their husbands frequently prevent them from working. The husband and wife both have equal rights to initiate and finalize divorce based on specific reasons or on mutual grounds. 

Some of the grounds on which divorce can be filed are desertion, domestic abuse, sexual harassment (where the husband wants the wife to engage in prostitution), aggressive behavior, etc. However, after divorce, the husband has the sole right to be recognized as the legal guardian of the children; only in cases where the children are under the age of seven would the wife be allowed to exercise her right as the legal guardian of the children. The right to inherit landed and non-landed properties is accessible to husbands as well as wives, and at the demise of one of the couple, the surviving spouse has the right to inheritance without any discrimination. 

Only the husband has the right to own property; the wife has to seek the permission of her husband before she can own, use, or dispose of property, and if he does not give permission, she is prohibited from gaining property. Both the husband and wife have the right to change, retain, and acquire their nationality; they both have the right to confer their nationality on their children who are born outside the country and also on their foreign spouses. In essence, the husband has access to more rights than the woman has in marriage and generally.

Costs

Marriage is considered an important endeavor in any man's life, and the total cost of a wedding highly depends on the ability of the couple and how much they are willing to put into the event. An average hotel room for guests in Equatorial Guinea is estimated to cost around CFA 221 per night; this depends on the location and reputation of the hotel. The average cost of the food and drink at the ceremony is around 1,800 CFA, which is approximately $3 per guest. 

The number of guests invited to the ceremony determines the total cost that would be spent on food and drink; it also determines the type of venue that would be rented, the decorations at the venue, etc. The cost of transportation is estimated at 3,000 CFA. Many couples often rent vehicles or ask for favors from family members that have vehicles. The cost of an average wedding in Equatorial Guinea is estimated to be around 923,250 CFA, which is approximately $1,500. The cost of marriage is often expensive for a lot of families, which is why common-law unions are very rampant within the country. 

Wealthy families do not find it difficult to host weddings, and they often use this as an opportunity to show off how wealthy the family is. Middle-class families that wish to contract marriage for their children often have to save for years or borrow, which eventually becomes a burden. Couples who wish to cut costs can decide to host intimate ceremonies for family and friends, avoiding the frustration that comes with hosting a large wedding.

Duties

In Equatorial Guinea, the responsibilities, roles, and duties of the husband and wife are not equally divided. More duties and responsibilities lie on the head of the wife than the husband; duties in the home are supposed to be equally divided, but that is not the case in Equatorial Guinea. The wife is obligated to obey her husband at all times; she is to respect him and ensure that no disrespect comes to him through her. 

She has a responsibility to be supportive at all times, even if it is not in her best interests. The role of the husband is to be the sole provider for the needs of the family; he is expected to be dominant and self-reliant. The role of housekeeper belongs to the wife; she is required to clean, take care of her husband and the children, and cook for the family. When guests are around, she is expected to be of a hospitable character at all times. 

The wife is obligated to provide assistance when it comes to making family decisions; since she does not have the right to make decisions, she can offer opinions and ensure that her husband makes the right decision concerning the welfare and wellbeing of the family. The husband and wife are responsible for the proper growth and development of the children; they are obligated to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The educational and moral upbringing of the children is the responsibility of the husband and wife.

Conclusion 

Equatorial Guinea has different laws that hide the act of marriage. There is no single law that defines how marriages are conducted in the country. Spouses are required to follow the rules of the Marriage Act according to their religion or ethnicity.

Traditional marriages are still quite popular in the country; however, most traditions in rural communities are not infused with church ceremonies. Spouses must note that the witnesses provided must be of legal age and have the legal capacity to act as such for the marriage registration to be completed. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Equatorial Guinea.z

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