Everything you need to know about marriage in the Comoros

19 Aug 2023·19 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Comoros 01

The Comoros, officially the Union of the Comoros, is an East African country and a volcanic archipelago. The country is made up of three islands in southern Africa. Every year, thousands of Comorians and foreign spouses get married in the country. The Comoros have an official state religion of Sunni Islam. Most of the marriages performed in the country are governed by Islamic principles. Comoros is a member of the Arab League and is the only country in the world located in the Southern Hemisphere. In the country, weddings can be either small or grand, depending on the couple's preferences and budget. Small weddings, also known as intimate weddings, typically involve a small number of close family and friends and may take place in a private home or a small venue. 

They are often more casual and intimate, with a focus on the couple and their relationship, while grand weddings are large wedding ceremonies that include hundreds of guests and typically take place in a large hall where various ceremonial rites are performed. This type of wedding is usually performed by very wealthy couples and families. There are three major types of marriages in the country: civil, religious, and customary marriages. Civil marriages are performed by government officials and have international validity, whereas religious and traditional marriages are performed by registered ministers of religion and elders in traditional regions and communities. 

According to the Comoros Family Code 2005, the legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for both male and female spouses. The law allows an exception for marriages between spouses under the age of 18, provided they have judicial consent. However, there is a prevalent rate of child marriages, which mostly stem from religious and customary marriages. Child marriages before the age of 18 amount to 32 percent of all marriages, and about 10 percent of marriages in the Comoros are performed by spouses below the age of 15. As you read on, you will find out more about the types of marriages as well as the laws and rights governing them.

Civil marriages

Civil marriages are legally binding in the Comoros and other foreign countries. This type of marriage is performed by an authorized marriage officer, such as a civil registrar or mayor, and it takes place in the civil registry. To begin the marriage application and registration process, spouses must go to the registry in the municipality or region they reside in to make an official declaration of their intention to marry. Both partners must be able to demonstrate that they are entering the marriage as a result of their free will and consent. Forced marriages are illegal and cannot be registered in the civil registry. 

Both parties getting married must be 18 years old and above. Spouses will be required to provide documents to support this claim, such as their birth certificate and a valid form of identification. Foreigners will be required to provide proof of residence to show they have been living in Comoros for the stipulated period of time. There is no strict medicinal requirement to perform a marriage in the Comoros, especially when the ceremony is between two Comorians. However, it is best for spouses to get tested for certain infectious diseases or undergo a physical examination to ensure that they are in good health. 

Furthermore, both partners must also be mentally fit to get married. Spouses must not be swayed by false pretense or fraud. Both partners must also be in good legal standing with the government, and the marriage officiant is charged with the responsibility of ensuring both partners are law-abiding citizens, either of Comoros or other foreign countries. Foreign partners will be required to show they are allowed to enter a marriage in their home country. This may be proven by submitting a valid certificate of no impediment to marrying. This document may be obtained from the concerned authorities at the home country or embassy of that country in Comoros. 

All documents must be in one of the three official languages of the country, which are Comorian, French, or Arabic. Documents in other foreign languages must be translated by certified translators, and interpreters may also be needed during the wedding ceremony for spouses who do not speak any of the legal languages. In Comoros, civil marriage ceremonies usually last 20 to 30 minutes. Couples must provide at least two witnesses during the actual wedding ceremony. After the wedding ceremony is concluded, the marriage officer will register it in the record book and issue a copy of the marriage certificate to the couple. The certificate offers various marriage entitlements and benefits to Comorian couples. The documents to be submitted during the marriage registration are stated below.

Documents Required

  • A national ID card or valid passport
  • Both partners must provide certified copies of their birth certificates.
  • Two witnesses must be provided by both spouses. The witnesses must have reached the age of 18.
  • Divorce or death certificates. Either of these documents must be provided by previously married spouses to show they legally terminated their former marriage.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage This document must be provided by a friend's spouse, stating that they are facing legal obstructions that may prevent them from legally contracting a marriage.
  • Proof of residence in the Comoros must be submitted by foreign spouses.

Religious and customary marriages

In the Comoros, religious and customary marriages are recognized and protected by law. These types of marriages are performed by ministers of religion and guided by the marriage laws of that religion or region. As stated previously, the official state religion is Islam. Sunni Muslims account for approximately 98 percent of the population in the country. The rest of the 2 percent consists of Christians, Shia, and Ahmadi Muslims. Muslim marriages in the country are governed under the principles of sharia, whereas those of other religions are governed by the civil code. 

Under the sharia laws in the country, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman; however, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man unless the man has agreed to convert to Islam before marriage is performed. Muslim marriages include a Nikah ceremony where the marriage agreement is signed by the couple and their witnesses. After the Nikah ceremony is concluded, the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife by the imam.

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Marriage traditions in the Comoros

Djaliko Day

This is a popular marriage tradition in grand Comorian marriages, where the groom, friends, and other members of the village or clan visit the bride's family and the groom's family afterwards. Here, the groom is required to present various gift items to both families and receive their blessings.

Mesenzal 

This ceremonial rite is popularly referred to as the "beauty ritual" in Comoros. Within a period of six months to a week before the wedding ceremony, the bride must be made as beautiful as possible. The beauty of a bride-to-be is one of the most important aspects of a Comorian wedding.

Wedding Reception 

Comorians are big on celebrations, and wedding receptions often include a lot of drinking and eating. There are various types of foods that are severed during the ceremony, as well as marriage rituals performed. The wedding reception is often one of the most anticipated parts of the entire marriage.

Same-sex marriages 

There is no recognition of same-sex marriages and unions in Comoros. It is illegal to be a homosexual and perform same-sex sexual activity in the country. This type of marriage may result in up to five years' imprisonment and the payment of fines. Members of the LGBT community face various forms of stigmatization and discrimination in the country without any form of protection from the government.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is legal in Comoros. A man is allowed to marry multiple wives; however, a woman may only be married to one man at a time. Comoros is a Muslim country, and under the principles of Islam, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives, provided that he treats them equally. Polygamy is still widely practiced in the country to this day.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The process, requirements, and eligibility for marriage in the Comoros are governed by Islamic laws. This is so because the majority of the population in the Comoros are Muslims. Under the Islamic laws in the Comoros, the legal age for marriage is set at 18 years for males and 16 years for females. However, with parental permission, a 14-year-old female may be allowed to contract marriage in the country. A marriage contract must be drawn up on behalf of the couple, and they both must agree to the contract before the marriage can take place. They must be in a sound state of mind to be able to contract marriage. Marriage would be prevented from taking place if one of the couples was not mentally fit to contract marriage. The husband and wife must give their full consent to marriage. 

The use of force or violence to contract marriage in the Comoros is against the law. However, according to Islamic law, the bride is not permitted to give her own consent to the marriage. Her legal guardian (wali), which could be her father, uncle, brother, etc., must give consent on her behalf. If the groom and bride contract marriage on their own without the consent of the bride's wali, the marriage may be annulled. The law also states that the marriage must be between a man and a woman. This implies that same-sex activities are not tolerated. Due to the traditional Muslim values and laws in the country, same-sex relationships and unions are illegal. In Comoros, polygamy is allowed. A man is allowed to marry more than one wife and up to four wives at the same time. However, he must be able to prove to the court that he has the financial ability to cater to their needs. 

Muslim marriages are also recognized as legal marriages in the Comoros. It must be conducted by an authorized marriage officiant or an authorized religious minister (imam). There must be at least two witnesses present at the time of the marriage. They must be at least 18 years old and have valid documentation. After the marriage process has been completed, the husband and wife are required to register their marriage at the civil registry. The groom and bride are required by law to undergo a medical examination to determine their medical compatibility. The law also states that marriage between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman is possible, but it is not possible between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam.

Rights

Due to the nature of the laws of marriage in the Comoros, the groom and bride do not enjoy the same sets of rights in marriage. Traditionally, the bride is believed to be inferior to her husband. He automatically has more access to rights in marriage than the bride. Despite the limitations on rights placed on couples in marriage, they are still permitted to exercise their fundamental rights. In marriage, the right to legal guardianship of the children belongs to the husband and wife. The wife has the same right as her husband to exercise parental authority over the children when necessary. 

However, only the husband has the right to be recognized as the head of the household, thereby sidelining the wife when it comes to making some important decisions concerning the wellbeing of the family. The husband has the right to decide on the family's permanent residence. Under the law, a husband and wife do not have the same right to file for divorce. The husband has the sole right to perform "twalaka," where he divorces his wife without any justifiable reason. The woman, on the other hand, only has the right to file for a fault-based divorce. 

The grounds upon which she can file for divorce are lack of maintenance, desertion, mental illness, etc. If she wishes to divorce for any of the reasons listed above, she must financially compensate her husband. They both have the same right to receive custody of the children, even after divorce. The husband and wife have the same right to work and receive equal payment for that work. Under the law, the wife does not have the same right as her husband to retain, acquire, or change their nationality.

Costs

Marriage is divided into two types in the Comoros: the small, also known as "petit mariage" or "Mna daho," and the grand, also known as "ada." The small wedding is often an intimate ceremony conducted until the couple is financially capable of hosting the grand wedding ceremony. The grand wedding ceremony is a must in Comoros. It automatically bestows a high social status on couples. 

Grand weddings can be costly because they often last up to two weeks and include various wedding practices on each day. A wedding in the Comoros can cost anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 euros. It can quickly escalate and cost hundreds of thousands of euros. It all depends on the preferences of the couple, the financial status of the couple and their families, etc.

Duties

The household duties and responsibilities in an average Comorian family are not equally distributed. Gender norms play a very big role in how duties and responsibilities are carried out by couples. The responsibility to cook, clean, maintain the home, take care of the children, etc. rests on the shoulders of the wife. On the other hand, the husband is responsible for catering to the needs of the family. He is expected to provide for the economic and financial needs of the family. 

He is obligated to provide maintenance for his wife at all times, and in return, the wife has a duty to obey her husband at all times. The husband and wife are obligated to meet the needs of the children in marriage. The children should be provided with adequate care and a proper educational and moral upbringing. The couple are both obligated to love one another and live together in the same residence. There should be respect for one another, as well as respect for one another's opinions and beliefs.

Final Thoughts 

Marriages are performed in different ways across the Comoros based on the ethnicities of the spouses. However, grand weddings are always looked forward to by spouses and their families as they are lavish and expensive ceremonies that always include a lot of elaborate ceremonial rites. It takes some couples up to several years to plan a grand wedding in Comoros.

The country makes provisions for both foreigners and native Comorians to get married. All Muslim marriages must be performed in accordance with the principles of Sharia law. Wedding ceremonies in the country are known to last for several days and up to a week in many cases. This article includes everything you need to know about marriage in Comoros.

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