Everything you need to know about marriage in Madagascar

24 Jun 2023·23 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Madagascar 01

Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, is an East African country famous for being the second-largest island country with the most beautiful flora and fauna in the world. Every year, thousands of marriages are celebrated in the country by Malagasy nationals and other foreigners. However, getting married in Madagascar as a foreigner may involve several procedures that can take a long time to complete. The country has a high rate of people from other countries getting married on some of its beautiful beaches, and foreign spouses are often advised to perform all the legalities of their marriage in their home country if possible. 

This is to make the marriage in Madagascar easier and more memorable by ensuring that only the formalities of the actual wedding ceremony are performed based on the preferences of the couple, without any serious legal processes involved. In the past, arranged marriages used to be very common across the whole country, leading to a lot of forced and child marriages. In fact, there are cases where girls as young as 11 and 12 are married off to live with their husbands in a new home. Child marriages involving male spouses are generally more severe than those involving female spouses. Also, the system of family in Madagascar It is traditionally patriarchal, with the man ruling as ruler and head of the family. 

The legal marriage age in Madagascar is 18 years old. Previously, the marriage age for female spouses was 14 years, and that for male spouses was 17 years. But, in 2017, this law was amended to reduce the number of child marriages in the country and set the new age at 18 years. Couples younger than this age (generally by one or two years) who want to get married are only allowed to do so with the provision of parental consent or a judge’s authorization. The rest of the article will show you details about the marriage traditions and laws in Madagascar.

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages are legally binding and recognized in Madagascar and other countries around the world. This type of marriage is performed by an authorized registrar in a registry office. Civil marriages. The process of getting married in Madagascar is the same for both Malagasy nationals and other foreigners; however, there are additional documents that are often requested from spouses who are from other countries abroad. One of the most important documents that must be submitted by any foreign spouse getting married in Madagascar is the single status certificate. In some cases, some registries may also request this document from Madagascan nationals, and for them, it’s quite easy. 

A spouse can obtain this document from the local office in their municipality, where the marriage ceremony will be held. A requirement is for the document and registry office to be in the same state where the spouses live. Basically, a single status certificate serves as evidence that a spouse has never been in a relationship before. Foreign spouses may be required to file an affidavit of their civil status with this claim. Madagascar does not allow marriages between multiple people, and a person who is still in a previous marriage is not allowed to enter a new one. In Madagascar, siblings, whether related by blood or adoption, are not allowed to marry civilly. As a matter of fact, this type of marriage is rendered invalid if performed, and it may also be considered a criminal offense. 

Both partners getting married must give their free will and consent before the ceremony takes place. Unlike in the past, where traditional marriages had a lot of ceremonies held under threats and coercion, civil marriages do not involve any of these. The registrar is charged with the responsibility of ensuring both partners are entering the marriage under their own free will by conducting interviews before the actual wedding date. Spouses who were previously married at home or abroad are required to provide evidence that their previous marriage was annulled or legally dissolved. This is one of the vital documents requested during the marriage application and registration process. 

In Madagascar, both partners getting married at a registry must be at least 18 years old. Under some exceptions, parental consent may allow spouses below this age to marry. There are various documents that must be submitted by both spouses before the marriage is allowed to take place. During the registration, the registrar often makes an announcement of the marriage to the general public through mass media and waits for a certain period of time to see if no one comes forward with information that may prevent the marriage from taking place legally. The documents that must be submitted are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification such as a national identity card or a valid passport
  • Copies of a government-issued birth certificate
  • Single status certificate showing that both spouses were single at the time of marriage
  • Divorce or death certificate. This document applies to spouses who were previously married. It must show that they legally terminated previous relationships or marriages.
  • Both spouses are required to provide at least two witnesses during the registration.
  • If one or both spouses are under the age of 18, written parental consent is required.
  • Reporting certificate in one’s municipality

Religious marriages 

Religious marriages are recognized and protected by law in Madagascar. Over 80 percent of the total population of Madagascar is Christian, with the Protestant and Catholic Churches being the two largest denominations. The percentage of Muslims in the country is quite low, at only about 3 percent, and people who have no religious affiliation make up about 7 percent of the whole country. 

Most marriages are performed under the principles of Christian churches, and there are certain criteria that must be met by both spouses before they are allowed to perform a marriage in the church. Generally, church marriages are some of the most popularly performed marriages in the country. Catholic Churches often demand the baptismal, holy communion, and confirmation certificates of spouses before proceeding to conduct the marriage. 

There is also often a prenuptial class that may run for a period of six weeks, during which the couple will be taught about what married life entails and how they can work together to live a peaceful life. The church service, which usually lasts about 2 hours before the wedding reception at a different location, is officiated by the priest.

Traditional marriages 

Traditional marriages are also recognized in Madagascar. This type of marriage used to be very common in the past; however, it is mostly practiced by those in rural communities now. Traditional marriages often involve a lot of ceremonial rites that have been performed for many years. There is a lot of planning and expenses that go into this type of marriage, and the process of getting married traditionally can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. 

Both families often meet together to agree on the dowry and make other necessary marriage arrangements. A special ceremony that often begins the whole marriage procedure is known as "Vodiondry," which will be explained further in the marriage traditions section of this article. After the dowry is agreed upon by both families, a grand wedding feast then takes place. The feast is attended by members of both families, where they get to share different meals together.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Madagascar 02Marriage traditions in Madagascar

Vodiondry

The Vodiondry is an important aspect of marriages in Madagascar. This is a ceremonial rite where the groom pays respect to the bride's family and thanks them for raising such a beautiful daughter. In most cases, the groom also offers the bride's brother gifts as a distraction from the fact that his sister is going away.

Dowry 

The payment of dowry is another important aspect of Madagascan wedding ceremonies. The groom and his family are presented with a bride price, which includes a list of items such as livestock that must be provided before he goes ahead and marries the bride.

Spokesperson 

Madagascan weddings usually have a spokesperson in charge of the ceremony. It is customary for the spokesperson to be very humble, and sometimes it may be an elder from either side of the families who will begin the wedding ceremony officially by appreciating both families and praising the bride.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex marriages, partnerships, and unions are not recognized in Madagascar. On the other hand, homosexuality is legal. But same-sex sexual activities can only occur between spouses who are at least 21 years old. Same-sex couples enjoy no form of discrimination protection or other rights or benefits of marriage in Madagascar.

Polygamy in Madagascar

Polygamous marriages are illegal in Madagascar. Marriage is a union between a single man and a single woman. The offense of this type of union is known as bigamy, which is a punishable crime under the laws of the country. Spouses must legally terminate their previous marriages before entering a new one.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Madagascar 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

A lot of importance is attached to marriage in Madagascar; therefore, persons who wish to enter into a marriage agreement have to understand the laws guiding the act of marriage in the country. The country of Madagascar recognizes marriages conducted according to the civil code and marriages conducted according to the customs and traditions of the people. Couples are allowed to choose which form of marriage they wish to contract, whether civil or traditional; civil marriages must be conducted at the civil registry, and all marriages, whether civil or traditional, must be registered at the civil office in order to obtain a valid status. 

According to the 2007 amended law on marriage and marital regimes, the minimum legal age for marriage was increased to 18 years for both men and women. All citizens must have reached the legal age for marriage to be able to enter into a valid marriage agreement. Marriage between minors who have not reached the legal age of marriage is allowed, but it is only allowed under extenuating circumstances, and they must be able to obtain parental consent before they can contract marriage. The same importance that is attached to parental consent is attached to the consent of the couple; both the bride and groom must give free and voluntary consent to marriage. 

In the event that force, threats, or violence are used to contract a marriage, such a marriage can be declared void. It is also important for both the husband and wife to be mentally and physically fit to get married; if it is perceived that either the husband or wife is not mentally stable, the marriage would not be allowed to take place. Same-sex relationships and activities are legal in Madagascar, but both partners must have reached the legal age of 21. According to the law, anyone who is in a homosexual relationship and is not yet 21 is liable for a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of 2 million to 10 million ariary, which is approximately US$900 to US$4,500. Marriages or civil unions between same-sex couples are not recognized under the laws of the country. 

Foreign couples who wish to get married in Madagascar are allowed to do so, but they must be eligible for marriage in their home country before they can contract marriage in Madagascar. Mixed marriages between a Madagascar citizen and a foreigner are permitted, and the foreign spouse will be granted permanent residence after two years. Both the husband and wife must be single at the time of the marriage contract. The practice of bigamy is illegal in Madagascar. Divorcees or widows are required to provide proof of the dissolution of a previous marriage in the form of a death certificate or divorce certificate. Any couple who wishes to live together as husband and wife but does not want to be formally married is permitted to do so, but the practice is common in Madagascar. 

Rights

The husband and wife have equal rights in marriage in Madagascar, but due to traditional laws, women are seen as inferior to men and therefore are not allowed to enjoy the same rights as men. The rights to divorce, custody, inheritance, etc. are not equally distributed among husband and wife. Both the husband and wife have equal parental rights over the children; they are both recognized as the legal guardians of the children. Couples have the right to procreate; they have the right to decide on the number of children they wish to have, and they also possess the right to raise them according to their various religious and moral practices. The husband is recognized as the head of the home; therefore, he has the right to make certain decisions about the family, such as the family's domicile.

The rights to divorce, custody, inheritance, etc. are not equally distributed among husband and wife. Both the husband and wife have equal parental rights over the children; they are both recognized as the legal guardians of the children. Couples have the right to procreate; they have the right to decide on the number of children they wish to have, and they also possess the right to raise them according to their various religious and moral practices. The husband is recognized as the head of the home; therefore, he has the right to make certain decisions about the family, such as the family's domicile. The wife only has the right to give advice or counsel to aid in making such decisions. Spouses have the right to move around freely without any limitations, but few restrictions are placed on wives because they are believed to only be concerned with things in the home. 

The law states that both the husband and wife have an equal right to divorce and a fair hearing, but divorce rulings are often in favor of the husband. However, in extreme cases such as domestic abuse, the wife has the right to leave the home without officially divorcing her husband; this act is known as "ministika." The practice of reconciliation is placed above the act of divorce; therefore, the court would often prolong divorce proceedings to see if the husband and wife would reconcile, and if not, the marriage would be dissolved eventually. At the dissolution of marriage, spouses have the right to equal custody and visitation rights; this right is finalized by the court. 

They are both entitled to the right to own properties either individually or jointly; it all depends on the marital regime of property agreed upon at the time of marriage. The husband and wife both have equal inheritance rights; at the demise of either of the spouses, the surviving spouse automatically gains the property of the deceased spouse after the descendants, family, and other people have claimed it. The husband and wife have the right to work and earn meaningful pay for that work without any discrimination at the workplace. They are entitled to the same rights as unmarried people and certain special rights at their place of work. They both have equal economic and political rights to participate in politics and government without regard for race or gender.

Costs

The average cost of marriage in Madagascar varies; the cost of a civil marriage differs from the cost of a traditional marriage, but both are quite expensive to host. In Madagascar, where the practice of paying dowries is popular, the groom is required to give certain items required by the family of the bride to the bride on the wedding day. It often includes livestock, groceries, and money. In more urban areas, the use of money to cover all dowry costs is more rampant. 

The average dowry costs around 3–7 million MGA, depending on the financial ability of the groom and his family. In Madagascar, the total cost of a wedding is estimated to be around 10 million to 20 million MGA based on different reasons such as the number of guests invited, the size of the wedding, what the couple is aiming for, the food and drinks at the event, accommodation, etc. The cost of renting a hotel in Madagascar ranges from as little as 222,004 MGA ($50) per night to as much as 830,297 ($187) per night, etc. 

It is believed that the cost of renting a venue and the cost of accommodation often take at least 60% of the wedding budget; therefore, couples have to have an effective and existing budget. Couples can hire a wedding planner to help them create a proper and working budget for the ceremony. In essence, the cost of a wedding is determined by how stable the couple is and what they hope to achieve.

Duties

In a typical household in Madagascar, the roles of the husband and wife are based on gender norms, but the pair has a responsibility to support and help one another as they carry out their individual obligations in the home. Generally speaking, the wife is believed to be in charge of properly managing all of the resources in the house. The duty to take care of the needs of the family falls on the shoulders of the husband and wife. 

The duty to provide for the family falls solely on the shoulders of the husband, but some wives also take on this duty and assist by making a modest contribution to the well-being of the family according to their means. The woman has a responsibility to look out for the welfare of the family; in society, she is recognized as the domestic housekeeper and the main caregiver. Due to societal stereotypes, she is obligated to obey her husband at all times and make herself available to him at all times. The couple must ensure that the children have a conducive and good environment for their growth and development.

Conclusion 

The marriage laws in Madagascar are quite straightforward, and both Madagascan nationals and other foreigners are able to get married in the country. Because Christianity is the religious belief of the majority of the population, most marriages are performed according to Christian principles.

Madagascar has beautiful beaches and various locations for weddings, which makes the country a spot for destination weddings in Africa. Traditional marriages in the country often involve a lot of ceremonial rites that must be carried out by both spouses before or during the ceremony. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Madagascar.

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