Everything you need to know about marriage in the Benin Republic

15 Jun 2023·16 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Benin Republic 01

Benin, officially known as the Republic of Benin, is a west African country famous for its landmarks and agriculture. The country has a diverse composition of ethnic groups, with about 42 of them practicing and performing marriages in unique manners. There are two major types of marriages in the country: civil and religious, or traditional, marriages. Only a civil marriage is legally binding; however, all types of marriages can be performed by both Beninese nationals and foreign spouses from other countries abroad. 

Benin is dominated by the Christian religion, with only a small percentage of people being Muslims or worshippers of voodoo. The legal marriage age in the country is 18 years, and this applies to both men and women. In some cases, parental or judicial consent may allow marriage to be performed by spouses who are below the age of 18. The rate of child marriages in the country has been rampant over the years. About 30% of all marriages performed in the country are between female spouses who are under the age of 18. 

This has led the government to try to reduce the number of child marriages because the girls do not enter the marriage under their own free will or consent. Now, before any marriage happens in the Benin Republic, both spouses must give their free will and consent, and they must also be up to the minimum legal marriage age. As you read on, you will find out more about the types of marriages in the country.

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages are the only type of marriage that is legally binding and recognized under the laws of the country. In Benin, a civil marriage is performed by a civil registrar and takes place in the registry's office. Spouses are required to provide a certificate of single status during the marriage application and registration. The document must have been obtained within the stipulated period of time by the registrar, and it must serve as clear evidence that such a spouse is single and eligible for marriage in Benin. 

This document is often requested from foreign spouses, and it may be obtained from marriage authorities at the home country of a foreign spouse or the consulate or embassy of their country in Benin. Spouses who are related by blood or adoption are not permitted to marry each other, and any such marriage will be declared null and void. The documents that must be submitted by spouses during the marriage registration are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • National identity or a valid passport
  • Certificate of single status. This is often requested by foreign spouses.
  • Proof of status in the country This includes a permanent resident card or work permit.
  • Health certificate. This must include original test result copies as specified by the registrar.
  • Proof of address
  • Divorce or death certificate. This only applies to widowed or separated spouses.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are widely performed in Benin; however, they hold no legal grounds. Such marriage is not recognized in Benin or other African countries. Most couples who perform these marriages also conduct a civil marriage to ensure the validity of their union. The predominant religion in Benin is Christianity. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches are the largest denominations, and most marriages are performed under their jurisdiction. 

Church marriages often involve marriage conditions that must be met by both spouses before they are allowed to conduct a marriage. The priest may conduct an interview for the bride and groom during which he will determine if they are truly ready and eligible for the union by asking them some routine questions. Church weddings are often held in the morning before a wedding reception later in the day at a separate venue.

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Marriage traditions in Benin Republic 

Dowry 

Traditionally, the groom must pay a certain amount known as the dowry to the bride's family before he is allowed to marry their daughter. During the engagement process, the groom goes to the bride's family to make a marriage proposal. After his proposal is accepted, he is presented with a list of items to be purchased and brought to the family house before he is allowed to proceed with the marriage. Most times, the kind of dowry requested depends on the financial status of the groom, and there may also be room for negotiation between both families regarding the dowry.

Wedding Ceremony

Like most other African wedding ceremonies, Beninese nationals like to have extravagant weddings. Most marriage ceremonies begin with a church service in the morning. The ceremony begins with a procession, and the bride is often walked down the aisle by her father. The church service often lasts only a few hours—typically two to three hours.

Wedding Reception 

Receptions for Beninese weddings are often big and colorful. The newlyweds may change their attire over the course of the party, and there is often a lot of drinking and eating. Traditional food is served, and depending on the choice of the couple, there may be a DJ playing music or a live band keeping the guests entertained.

Same-sex marriages 

Spouses of the same sex are not allowed to legally get married in the Benin Republic. Same-sex sexual acts by both men and women are legal in the country, but same-sex couples are not allowed to perform marriages or head households. There is still a high level of discrimination facing homosexuals in the country.

Polygamous marriages

Polygamy is illegal in Benin. In the past, polygamous marriages used to be allowed, and multiple people were allowed to be in relationships; this was abolished in 2014. Polygamy is strictly banned according to the constitution of the Republic of Benin.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws  

The laws of marriage in the Benin Republic are regulated by the Code of Persons and Family, which defines marriage as the voluntary legal agreement between a man and woman with the purpose of founding a family. The law states that before marriage can take place, free and voluntary consent from both parties must be obtained without the use of force, threats, or violence. On the topic of forced marriages, anyone who forces marriage between a man and woman is punishable by law; offenders are liable to face imprisonment for one to three years or payment of fines. Anyone who also helps plan a forced marriage is liable to face the same punishment as someone who perpetrates it. 

The legal age for marriage in the Benin Republic is set at 18 years for both males and females; marriage between minors can be allowed to take place provided parental consent is obtained by both parties. Forced marriages between couples who have attained the legal age of marriage or minors are prohibited by law and are considered to be a punishable offense. The law does not recognize religious marriages, customary marriages, or informal unions; couples who wish to have their marriages recognized must contract marriage under civil laws to be able to enjoy the benefits and rights available to couples under the law. Both the husband and wife are required to be single at the time of marriage; they must not be in any legally binding marriage at the time. 

If either of the couples has been married in the past, they are required by law to present proof of the dissolution of marriage in the form of a death or divorce certificate. A divorced woman cannot enter into a new marriage contract until 300 days have passed since her divorce was finalized. Only monogamous marriages are recognized by the law; however, due to the widespread practice of customary marriages, which allows the practice of polygamy, a lot of marriages in the Benin Republic are polygamous, and the husband is allowed to marry as many wives as he wishes, but this type of marriage is not registered as it is not recognized by the law. Marriage between foreigners is allowed in the Benin Republic. Foreign couples who wish to enter into marriage must be permitted to do so from their home country before they can be allowed to marry in the country.

Rights

The rights of the husband and wife in marriage are stated under the law in the Benin Republic. After a marriage agreement has been signed, both the husband and wife have the right to be recognized as the heads of the household, and they are both entitled to be involved in the decision-making process in the family. Spouses have the right to perform their roles as the legal guardians of the children in the family; they are also granted the right to exercise parental authority over the children when needed. 

Couples have the right to jointly decide on the residence of the family. They both have the right to file for divorce, either based on mutual agreement or at the request of one of the spouses. Both the husband and wife are required to meet the same requirements for the divorce to be finalized. And once divorce has been finalized, the husband and wife have the right to receive custody of the children; this would be decided by the court of justice. 

Both spouses have the right to inherit both land and non-land assets; if one of the spouses dies, the surviving spouse automatically inherits the deceased spouse's property with no restrictions or discrimination. The wife has the same right as the husband to change, acquire, and confer their nationality on their foreign spouses and children. The husband and wife have the right to work in any career field that they wish, and they have the right to receive appropriate payment for work done.

Costs

The payment of the bride price is one of the most integral parts of the costs of marriage in the Benin Republic. The bride price could be measured in monetary value, livestock, food stuffs, and groceries; it all depends on what the family of the bride requests from the groom and his family. The average cost of the bride's price is estimated to be around 50,000–100,000 CFA, depending on the request of the bride's family and how wealthy the groom's family is. 

The average cost of marriage in the Benin Republic is estimated to be around 400,000–600,000 CFA, depending on the financial capability of the couple. Many average families have to save for many years or borrow money to be able to meet up with this expensive cost of marriage, while more financially stable families often use this opportunity to show off their wealthy status.

The cost of accommodating guests at a reputable hotel is around 50,000 CFA, which is approximately $98 per night. Therefore, couples who wish to shoulder this cost for their invited guests should expect to put a lot of money into the wedding budget.

Duties

Couples have various duties to perform in the home in order to ensure that the family is run smoothly and managed appropriately, as so much importance is attached to the role of the family in society. The couple owes it to one another to love and respect one another. They have an obligation to provide mutual assistance and support for one another when necessary. The duties of the wife in the family are not based on gender roles; however, women are often obligated to take on domestic roles in the home. 

Women in rural areas are often responsible for housework and farm work while taking care of their husbands, children, and in-laws. The husband is required to be the sole provider for the family; he is obligated to provide all the material and physical needs of the family; however, they are both required to contribute jointly to the wellbeing of the family. They have a duty to be emotionally, physically, and mentally available for themselves and the family as a whole.

In Summary  

The Benin Republic is quite diverse in terms of religion and ethnicity. Marriages are generally performed in accordance with the religious beliefs as well as the customs and traditions of the region or community of the spouses. Civil marriages are the only type of marriage that holds legal grounds in Benin.

The country does not allow same-sex marriages, and the rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples are not available to same-sex couples, as they are not allowed to adopt or inherit in the country. Before a marriage is contracted, both spouses are required to confirm they are eligible for marriage and not facing any obstructions. We hope this article has helped you learn everything you need to know about marriages in the Benin Republic.

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