Everything you need to know about marriage in the Central African Republic

6 Aug 2023·21 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Central African Republic 01

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa, popular for its impressive waterfalls and exotic rainforests. Thousands of marriages are performed every year in the Central African Republic by both foreigners and Central Africans. However, due to the high rates of poverty, the country receives few foreign visitors each year. Marriages in the Central African Republic may be performed in a civil, religious, or traditional wedding. Civil marriages performed in the Central African Republic are recognized across the country and in all other countries in the world. Religious and traditional marriages are quite popular in the country, and marriages are performed in various different ways. 

The country is multiethnic and multireligious. Each ethnic group has its own marriage traditions, and most of these traditions include important marriage elements such as the exchange of gifts between the families of the bride and groom, the importance of family and community, as well as the involvement of a traditional religious or cultural leader to perform the ceremony. Marriage is a very important and special occasion for Central Africans. In some regions, once a male reaches the age of maturity, he begins saving money towards having a big wedding celebration in the future. Arranged marriages used to be very popular in the country. Traditionally, the family of a male child ready for marriage checked with other families in their region to find a suitable bride for their son. 

In many cases, the groom’s family may find up to five potential brides and choose the most-suitable one for their son based on different factors such as beauty, family background, education, and more. There is usually a negotiation between both families to discuss and agree on the terms of marriage. The terms will include the duties and responsibilities of the husband and wife in marriage. The rest of this article will touch on the marriage traditions as well as the duties of the husband and wife in a Central African marriage. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

In the Central African Republic, civil marriages are conducted by a government official, such as a judge or mayor, in the civil registry. This type of marriage is a legal union between two individuals that is recognized by the government in the Central African Republic and other countries in the world. There are various requirements that must be met by Central African couples for their marriage to be legally recognized. Both partners must be of legal age in the country. Under the Family Code 1998 of the Central African Republic, the minimum marriage age is 18 years. 

Under special circumstances, a spouse under the age of 18 may be allowed to perform a marriage in the country. Such a spouse is required to provide written parental consent or judge approval. There is a high prevalence of child marriages in the Central African Republic. The rate of child marriages before spouses reach the age of 18 is 68 percent. About 29 percent of marriages are entered by spouses before reaching the age of 15. As a matter of fact, CAR has the second highest prevalence rate of child marriages in the whole world. There have been various efforts to reduce the prevalence of child marriages in the country, and over the years, there have been stricter laws regarding civil marriages performed in the Central African Republic. 

Both spouses must not already be married in CAR or any other country in the world. Spouses getting married in a civil marriage must be single and not in any form of union or marriage in the country or abroad. If a spouse was previously married, they will be required to provide valid legal evidence that their previous marriage was terminated according to the marriage laws in the country by an authorized government official. Both partners are required to provide certain documents, such as proof of identity and residency. 

The proof of identity must be provided by both spouses and their witnesses, showing their picture as well as their country of origin. The registry where the couple is performing their marriage will inform them if there is a need to provide an immigration card or any other form of proof of residency showing that they have been living in CAR prior to the time of marriage. Civil marriages in the Central African Republic are popular, but not as much as traditional and religious marriages in the country. Most times, civil marriages are restricted to people in urban areas, whereas most people living in rural areas follow traditional customs and marriage rites.

Foreign spouses may be required to show that they are legally permitted to get married in their home country. All the documents submitted during the marriage registration must be translated by a registered authority into either French or Sango, as these are the two official languages of CAR. All documents must be notarized and apostilled. The documents that must be submitted by both Central African and foreign spouses are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • A valid means of identification. Central African spouses must provide a national ID card, while foreigners must provide a valid passport.
  • Both partners must provide certified copies of their birth certificates.
  • A certificate of single status must be provided by foreign spouses getting married in the Central African Republic.
  • Two witnesses must be provided by both spouses. The witnesses must be at least 18 years old.
  • Divorce or death certificate. Previously married spouses who are now separated or widowed must provide either of these documents as evidence of the legal termination of such a previous marriage.
  • Proof of address Foreign spouses may be required to provide valid evidence that they had legal residence in CAR prior to the marriage.

Religious and traditional marriages

In the Central African Republic, religious and traditional marriages are very popular. Most of the people living in the country are Christians, and marriages are mostly performed in accordance with the principles of Christianity, the traditions and customs of the region, or the communities of spouses. Christianity is practiced by 89 percent of the people living in CAR, while about 9 percent of Central Africans are Muslims. The remaining two percent includes those who practice traditional religions and others with no religious affiliations. 

Religious marriages are recognized by the government of the Central African Republic if they are conducted by authorized religious officials. Both Christian and Muslim marriages are recognized and protected under the laws of the country; however, they are performed in two different ways. The marriage rites and rituals may differ depending on the specific denomination or sect in the country. Catholic marriages require both partners to attend premarital counseling with the priest. During this time, the priest ensures both partners are compatible and know everything marriage entails before entering it. All religious marriages must be registered with the government to ensure their legal validity.

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Marriage traditions in the Central African Republic

Bride Price 

The bride price is also known as dowry or lobola in the Central African Republic, and it makes up a major part of marriage rituals in the country. The bride price is a payment that must be made by the groom to the bride's family. This is often performed as a symbol of his commitment to the marriage.

Traditional music and dance

The Central African Republic is ethnically diverse, and marriages are performed in different ways; however, music and dance are common to all marriages in the country. Many weddings feature traditional music and dance performances by guests as well as the families of the bride and groom during the wedding party.

Warding off evil spirits

In the Gbaya ethnic group in CAR, the bride and groom must go through a marriage ritual known as Ngbwa according to the traditions of the land. This ritual involves the bride and groom being smeared with a mixture of clay and water by a traditional healer from their community. This is done in order to protect them from evil spirits.

Same-sex marriages 

The status of homosexuality is legal in the Central African Republic. Members of the LGBT community are allowed to perform same-sex sexual activities in the country; however, they are not allowed to head households. Male and female spouses of the same sex may not perform any kind of marriage or union in the country. They are also not entitled to any marriage benefits, such as adoption in CAR. LGBT members often face legal challenges.

Polygamy in the Central African Republic

Polygamous marriages are legal in the Central African Republic. Polygyny is still widely practiced across CAR, and men are allowed to marry multiple wives legally. However, before entering into the rudest marriage, a man must make the nature of his marriage clear and state if he wants a monogamous or polygamous marriage. If a monogamous marriage is registered at first, such a spouse will not be allowed to change his mind later on to marry additional wives in the country.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Marriage in the Central African Republic can be contracted either civilly or religiously. Civil marriage is governed by the civil code, which specifies how marriage is performed as well as the requirements, procedures, and so on. Religious marriages are also governed by the various religious laws of the couple's religious institutions. Civil marriage and religious marriage are the only types of marital unions that have any legal value in the country; other forms of marriage are allowed, but they do not have any legal recognition. The civil code states that before marriage can take place in the Central African Republic, it must be between a man and a woman, or in some cases, multiple women. This implies that, because polygamy is allowed in the Central African Republic, a man is legally allowed to marry multiple wives, provided he has the means to take care of them and has obtained the permission of his first wife or current wives. 

At the time of marriage, the husband must decide whether to contract a monogamous or polygamous marriage. If a monogamous marriage is chosen, he is not permitted to marry more wives later on. The above law also implies that same-sex marriages are not permitted in the Central African Republic. Homosexual couples are allowed to carry out their activities in the country as they have a legal status, but they are prohibited from having a family as it is believed to be against the natural order of things. In the Central African Republic, the minimum legal age for marriage is set at 21 years for both males and females. Anyone under the age of 25 must obtain parental consent before marriage can take place. In the absence of parental consent, the couples can obtain permission from a legal guardian or obtain a court's ruling. There are no exceptions for those under the age of 21. 

According to the law, marriage must be contracted voluntarily without the use of force or violence; therefore, the husband and wife must give their free and willing consent to marriage. Under the religious laws of marriage, both Christian and Muslim marriages are recognized. The marriage must be performed by a licensed priest or minister, who must ensure that the couple is compatible and has met the marriage requirements of the religious sect to which the couple belongs. If any of the couple has previously been married but the marriage ended in divorce or the death of one of the spouses, the concerned party must submit a certificate of divorce or a certificate of death to prove that the marriage no longer exists.

Rights

Marriage confers the same rights on husband and wife; however, there are some traditional stereotypes in the country that affect the rights of women in particular. The right to legal guardianship of the children is granted to the husband alone. He has the sole right to be recognized as the legal guardian of the children as well as exercise parental authority over them. The wife is only allowed to assume this role at the demise of her husband or during divorce. 

The wife is not granted the same right as the husband to be recognized as the head of the household. Only the husband is legally recognized as the head of the household; therefore, he gets to make decisions concerning the welfare of the family, excluding the wife from this process. In the decision-making process of the family, the husband has the right to decide on the residence of the family, and they both have the right to live together. The husband and wife have the right to work and be paid equally for their efforts. The husband and wife have the right to receive fair treatment and be treated equally at the workplace. 

Not only does the couple have the right to work, but they also have the right to certain benefits that unmarried people do not have. The husband and wife have the right to own property, and they have the right to manage and dispose of property as they wish, regardless of whether the property is owned jointly or separately. The husband and wife are also permitted to participate in socioeconomic and political activities outside the confines of the home.

Costs

The cost of marriage in the Central African Republic is dependent upon the type of marriage contracted by the couple. A simple civil marriage costs way less than other forms of marriage in the country. The couple only needs to obtain a marriage license, which costs only 30,336 CFA francs. Religious marriages might cost less. Some religious institutions do not collect any money, while others ask for donations to the place of worship. 

Traditional marriages are frequently expensive because they frequently include the bride's price and other traditional ceremonies. The average cost of a wedding in the Central African Republic is around 100,000 CFA francs, including the cost of renting a wedding venue, food and drinks at the event, music and entertainment, and so on.

Duties

In the Central African Republic, the roles, duties, and responsibilities of the husband and wife are unbalanced. The husband is excluded from a lot of household responsibilities as it is believed that he should be more concerned with the outside world while the wife should be in charge of maintaining the household. The wife is often responsible for managing the resources in the home. 

She is obligated to cook, clean, maintain the home, and take care of her children as well as her husband. In larger families, she is obligated to take care of any extended family member. Despite having an official job, she has a duty to ensure that the home is in its best condition at all times. She has a duty to be hospitable to all, regardless of their status or age. The husband, on the other hand, is responsible for the economic and financial well-being of the family. He must ensure that the needs of the family are met at all times. 

Basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter must be provided by the husband. The children must also be well taken care of in the home. The husband and wife must be able to provide a conducive and good environment for the growth and development of the children. Their educational and moral upbringing should be the paramount duty of the husband and wife.

Conclusion 

The Central African Republic is a very diverse country. There are various marriage rituals that are performed during wedding ceremonies to offer protection to the bride and groom. Most of the rituals are also performed to ensure the couple is happy and blessed with many children.

The marriage traditions in the Central African Republic vary depending on the ethnicity, location, and religion of both spouses. Soused may either get married in a civil or religious marriage, or even both. It all comes down to their preferences; however, all marriages must be registered to hold legal grounds in CAR. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in the Central African Republic.

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