Everything you need to know about marriage in Guinea

17 Jun 2023·21 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Guinea 01

Guinea is a west African country popular for its richness in mineral resources. Annually, thousands of marriages are performed by Guinean nationals and foreigners from other countries. Marriages are celebrated in different forms in Guinea, but only one type of marriage is generally accepted in the country as well as other parts of the world. Civil marriages are the most popular and only type of marriage that is legally binding in the country. Other types of marriages commonly practiced in Guinea include religious, traditional, and symbolic marriages. Couples have the freedom to solemnize their marriage according to their own preferences, community, or religion; these kinds of marriages hold no legal status. 

Spouses who perform religious and traditional marriages are required to first perform a civil marriage so as for the Union to be recognized in Guinea and other African countries. The minimum legal marriage age in Guinea is 18 years, and every spouse, both foreign and native Guineans, is expected to reach this age before contracting a marriage in the country. Under serious reasons or other social cases, a person below the age of 18 may be allowed to enter a marriage; however, they must have parental or guardian consent and, in some cases, a judge’s approval or authorization. 

Despite the marriage laws regarding the minimum age for marriage, child marriages are quite common in the country, with Guinea being the ninth country in the whole world where child marriages are prevalent. According to statistics, 47 percent of all girls who enter marriage are under the age of 18, and 17 percent of girls get married before the age of 15. Child marriages are often driven by inequality, with female spouses being mostly uneducated and treated with a lesser status. The rest of the article will help you learn more about the marriage traditions in Guinea. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages are the only types of marriage that are legally recognized and protected under the laws of the country. This type of marriage includes several procedures that must be followed by both spouses as well as their witnesses. Spouses who want to get married in Guinea are required to perform the marriage in person. The first step is to obtain a marriage application form and fill it out with the correct details. Upon the submission of the documents, marriage preparations may proceed. For a marriage to be legally binding, it must be performed in the presence of a civil officer. 

The officer is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the two spouses are eligible for marriage. Child and forced marriages have been major issues in the country, and the officer is required to follow due process during the marriage registration. A publication must be made to notify the general public of the oncoming marriage, and this must be done before a marriage license and certificate are issued to the spouses. 

There is frequently a waiting period during which the officer checks to see if anyone objects to the bride and groom being united in holy matrimony. If no issues arise, the marriage officiant goes ahead and issues a marriage certificate to the spouses. Below, you will find out some of the conditions for marriage, and if any of them are violated, it may result in jail time and the payment of fines.

Marriage Conditions

  • Partners who have not reached the age of 21 are not allowed to marry in Guinea except with the provision of parental consent. In such cases where the age difference between both partners is thirty years or more, the approval of the Interior Minister must be obtained before contracting such a marriage.
  • Under no circumstances may a male spouse marry before the age of 18 or a female spouse marry before the age of 17.
  • A traditional marriage only takes place after the complete payment of the dowry by the groom and his family.
  • Both partners must give their free will and consent for a marriage to happen in Guinea.

Documents Required 

Both foreign and Guinean spouses are required to submit some documents during the marriage registration process. Documents submitted by foreigners must be translated into the official language of the country, French, and all the paperwork must be properly notarized and stamped to prove their legitimacy. These documents are stated below.

  • A valid means of identification, such as a national ID card or valid passport
  • A government-issued birth certificate
  • Divorce or death certificate must be provided by previously married spouses who have legally terminated the union and are widowed or separated.
  • Proof of single status. This is also referred to as a "certificate of no impediment to marry," and it must be provided by foreign spouses to show they are facing no current obstructions that can prevent the marriage from happening.
  • Two witnesses must be provided by the bride and groom. These witnesses must not be related to them, and they must also be of legal age.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are popular in Guinea, and although they are widely performed, they hold no legal grounds. For a religious marriage to be legally binding in Guinea, a marriage certificate must be obtained by the spouses from a previously performed civil marriage ceremony. This shows that couples must first conduct a civil marriage before proceeding with any other type of marriage in the country. In Guinea, if a religious marriage is performed without a civil marriage or in violation of the correct sequence, it may result in legal consequences, such as punishment ranging from a period of three months to one year in prison. 85 to 90 percent of all Guineans are Muslims, and the rest of the percentage is shared between Christians and those who practice traditional folk religions. 

Getting married under the Muslim faith involves the couples following all the sharia principles; however, they must not contradict the Guinean civil code to be legally binding in the country. A marriage certificate must be obtained by the spouses from a previously performed civil marriage ceremony. This shows that couples must first conduct a civil marriage before proceeding with any other type of marriage in the country. In Guinea, if a religious marriage is performed without a civil marriage or in violation of the correct sequence, it may result in legal consequences, such as punishment ranging from a period of three months to one year in prison. 

85 to 90 percent of all Guineans are Muslims, and the rest of the percentage is shared between Christians and those who practice traditional folk religions. Getting married under the Muslim faith involves the couples following all the sharia principles; however, they must not contradict the Guinean civil code. Muslim marriages are often performed in a modest ceremony attended by only family and close friends, where both partners get to sign a marriage contract and become husband and wife officially.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Guinea 02

Marriage traditions in Guinea

Engagement Ceremony 

A great deal of attention is paid to engagement ceremonies in Guinea. After the bride and groom must have courted for months or years, they may decide to get married. However, before performing the wedding ceremony, an engagement ceremony must be conducted. Here, the groom will make a marriage proposal, which must be accepted by the bride's family before they are allowed to further the marriage arrangements. An engagement party may be held a month or two before the actual wedding ceremony, where both families will get to know each other better.

Long Weddings

Guinean weddings have never been known to involve a short period of time. From the pre-wedding rituals to the actual wedding, there are several roles and responsibilities as well as rituals that must be performed by the bride and groom as well as their families. In Muslim weddings, families play a huge role, and the process of getting married can take several months.

Wedding Reception 

Wedding receptions in Guinea are usually fun-packed events. There are various games and ceremonial rites that are performed by the newlyweds and other members of their wedding party. Traditional food and drinks are served to guests during the ceremony, and it is customary for the husband and wife to show their appreciation to the guests for gracing their reception.

Same-sex marriages 

The constitution of Guinea states that two people of the same sex are not allowed to do anything but marry. Homosexuality holds no legal status, and members of the LGBT community have no marriage rights or entitlements in Guinea. The penalty for same-sex sexual activity, marriages, and unions can range anywhere from six months to ten years with the payment of fines.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamous marriages are not allowed in Guinea. Marriage may only happen between a man and a woman. There is a presumption in Guinean marriages that all marriages are monogamous except if a man has previously stated, at the time of registering and contracting the marriage, that he would like to enter polygyny and the bride gives her full consent and approval.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Guinea 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws


Guinea's marriage rules are solely based on civil law, which indicates that only civil weddings are acknowledged as having any legal value. Religious and customary weddings are permitted in the nation, although they are not acknowledged by the law and have no legal significance. A civil marriage must be conducted at the civil registry and officiated by an authorized representative of the law. Polygamy is illegal in Guinea as marriages are believed to be monogamous, except when a groom states at the time of marriage registration that he wishes to contract a polygamous marriage and the bride must give voluntary consent to the arrangement. 

Speaking of consent, both parties must give their voluntary consent to marriage before it is allowed to take place. The use of force or violence to obtain consent from both parties or to contract marriage is prohibited in Guinea, but the practice of forced marriages such as levirate and sororate marriages is still very rampant in the country. The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 years for both males and females; they must provide parental consent or permission from a legal guardian or a judge to be able to contract marriage. Anyone who has not reached the age of 21 is not permitted to enter into a marriage agreement without parental permission. As stated earlier, marriages ought to be monogamous under the law, which means that both parties must be single at the time of marriage except in situations where the husband wishes to contract a polygamous marriage. 

Foreigners who wish to be married in Guinea are allowed to do so, provided they can prove that there is no legal impediment to marriage. They must be eligible for marriage in their home country before they are allowed to celebrate marriage in Guinea. The certificate of marriage issued in Guinea is considered to be globally recognized. Same-sex activities in Guinea do not have any legal status; therefore, same-sex marriages are illegal as well, and offenders are liable to face a jail term of up to 10 years. 

The law also states that before marriage can be allowed to take place, the husband and wife must be in a mentally stable condition. If one of the couple is mentally incapacitated, the marriage would be allowed. In the event that either of the couples has been married before, they are required by law to provide a certificate of divorce or death to prove that such a marriage has been dissolved prior to the time of contracting a new marriage agreement.

Rights

Naturally, couples are believed to have equal rights according to the law of the country; however, in the case of Guinea, there is an imbalance between the rights of the husband and wife in the home. Rights such as parental authority are conferred on the husband alone according to the rights of spouses in the civil code, which implies that the husband has the sole right to be referred to and recognized as the head of the family. It is only under certain circumstances, such as widowhood, abandonment, and cases of polygamy where the husband is recognized as the head of the home in another family, that a woman has the right to be recognized as the head of the household. 

Due to the unilateral rights that the husband has in the home, he has the ultimate decision-making right to decide the domicile residence of the family without involving the wife in this process. He also has the right to perform the role of a legal guardian for the children in the home. At the demise of the husband, the woman ought to be the legal guardian of the children, but she is deprived of this right, and a council of family members is set up where a male guardian from the family of the husband is chosen to exercise the rights as the legal guardian of the children. It is also important to note that while men are granted the right to confer their nationality on their children or foreign spouses, women are not granted this right. 

Both the husband and wife have the right to inherit, but the surviving female spouse is only entitled to one-eighth of the deceased spouse's property, both land and non-land properties. The inheritance is first divided among the children of the couple before any is given to the surviving spouse. However, this is not the case for male surviving spouses; they automatically inherit all land and non-land properties that belonged to the deceased wife. They are both granted the right to file for divorce; however, due to the societal stigma and loss of dignity that are associated with this act, many women refuse to exercise this right and stay in abusive or non-functional marriages.

Costs

Due to the economic status of the country, many people live below the poverty line, and as a result, many families have to save for several years or borrow money before they are able to host a wedding ceremony for their children. The average cost of a typical wedding in Guinea is estimated to be around 4,308,547 Guinean Francs, which is approximately $500. Since many marriages are customary and only involve the payment of a bride price, many couples do not bother to have a wedding ceremony. 

For foreigners who wish to have their destination wedding in Guinea, the average cost of hotel accommodation at reputable hotels is estimated to be around $50, which implies that the cost of accommodation, feeding, and transportation of guests will take up the bulk of the wedding budget.

Duties

The husband and wife have various duties and roles to perform in the home. In Guinea, the wife is responsible for the majority of the duties and responsibilities in the household. The wife has a duty to cook, clean, take care of the children, and take care of the home and her husband as well as his family members. In rural areas, she is responsible for the majority of the farm work. The husband, on the other hand, is required to be the sole provider for the family. 

However, in situations where the husband cannot perform his role as the provider for the family, it automatically falls on the shoulder of the wife along with her other duties in the home. They are both required to provide a proper moral and educational upbringing for the children in the home. The wife has an obligation to obey her husband at all times and not question his authority, and in return, her husband is expected to ensure that she is not disrespected in any way.

Conclusion 

In Guinea, marriages must be performed in the presence of a civil marriage officer for them to be legally binding. Unlike in other countries, contracting other forms of marriage without a civil marriage ceremony can result in the payment of fines or even a jail term in Guinea.

Marriage is only allowed between two people of the opposite sex. Under no circumstances are people allowed to perform same-sex sexual activities or other types of unions in the country. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in Guinea.

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