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The laws relating to Marriage in Bangladesh are laws enacted by the Parliament supported by Mohammedan (Muslim) laws (for the Muslims in Bangladesh).
The religious solemnization of a Muslim marriage means a Muslim scholar (Kazi) shall offer to a bride that the bride groom wishes to marry her for an amount of dower (meher money) and whether she has consent to the offer once the bride consents in front of witnesses; the Muslim scholar then again comes to the bride groom and the bride groom confirms his offer and accepts again in front of witnesses and thus the solemnization completes. Apart from this solemnization there are requirement of registration of marriage in accordance with section 3 of the Muslim Marriages and Divorce (Registration) Act 1974, according to this section every marriage solemnized in accordance with Muslim laws shall be registered in accordance with the provision of this Act. Section 5 of the above mentioned Act provides:
“5. Solemnisation of a marriage to be reported and registered- (1) where a marriage is solemnized by the Nikah Registrar himself, he shall register the marriage at once.
(2) Where a marriage is solemnized by a person other than the Nikah Registrar, the bridegroom of the Marriage shall report it to the concerned Nikah Registrar within thirty days from the date of solemnization.
(3) Where solemnization of a marriage is reported to a Nikah Registrar under sub section (2), he shall register the marriage at once.”
The High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in it’s Judgment in the case of Abdullah vs. Rokeya Khatoon 21 DLR 213 held that:-
“Section 5 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance makes it absolutely necessary that the marriage solemnized under the Muslim Law shall be registered. The solemnization of marriage if validly affected might not be affected for non-registration of the marriage.”
Even in the later judgments of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh it was even more firmly established that mere non-registration of the marriage duly solemnized shall not affect the legality of the marriage.
Polygamy in Islam
The law relating to polygamous or potentially polygamous marriages is outlined at section 6 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 as follows:-
“6. Polygamy – (1) No man, during the subsistence of an existing marriage, shall, except with the previous permission is writing of the Arbitration Council, contract another marriage, nor shall, any such marriage contracted without such permission be registered.
(2) An application for permission under sub-section (1) shall be submitted to the Chairman in the prescribed manner, together with the prescribed fee, and shall state the reasons for the proposed marriage, and whether the consent of the existing wife or wives has been obtained thereto.
(5) Any man who contracts another marriage without the permission of the Arbitration Council shall –
(a) pay immediately the entire amount of the dower, whether prompt or deferred, due to the existing wife or wives, which amount, if not so paid, shall be recoverable as arrears of land revenue; and
(b) on conviction upon complaint be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to [ten thousand taka], or with both.”
The law regarding one’s capacity to marry is governed by Islamic laws and according to Islamic law a male can enter into polygamous marriage but women cannot. The Supreme Court has held that section 6 of the Ordinance does not declare the second marriage as illegal or invalid and it only prescribes a penal provision for violating it. However, if an woman enters into a polygamous marriage that marriage will be null and void.
A “Nikahnama” is a valid marriage certificate for Muslims in Bangladesh. In absence of a “Nikahnama” a marriage can be proven by way of oral evidence from witnesses present in the marriage ceremony describing the marriage rituals that had been observed as per Islamic laws. The validity of their marriage can be determined by witnesses and description of the ceremony as stated above.
[Keep your eyes on this place for updates. In next edition, we will talk about Divorce in Bangladesh focusing on registration, disputes, annulment etc.]