Marriage, Family and Country

About Eritrea - History & Culture

Marriage is one of the few things that do not require actual experience to know their benefits. Being the product of marriage alone gives one the right to speak about marriage. The purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of marriage in the creation of strong families and country.

Marriage is one of the most celebrated, honored and valued cultural institutions in Eritrean society. It is considered a source of supreme fulfillment and happiness. Traditionally, in the Eritrean society marriage is viewed as a requirement for adults to join the community of families. Marriage is every one’s business. When you reach a certain age your acquaintances often try to persuade you to get married.

The customary laws of Eritrea that shaped the legal, socio-cultural and intellectual life of the Eritrean society have invested great interest in marriage. The details of the ceremony and content of the marriage contract are clearly stated in all the customary laws of Eritrea. In the Eritrean society marriage is not an affair of the couples only; it is a familial, communal and societal affair. Traditionally, marriage is meant to create a bond and lasting relationship between families. The marriage is usually celebrated a long time after betrothal. The betrothal, as the solemn exchange of promise, is the first act in the celebration of marriage.

The coming together of a man and a woman in marriage creates the greatest companionship in this world. There is a growing consensus among scholars that marriage is important for the wellbeing of a family and country. Families formed based on marriage are, on average, healthier, wealthier, and more stable than other families formed outside of marriage. Marriage is an important social institution that has remarkable array of positive outcomes. The social good of marriage is not limited to the territory of a single family.

Every child has a fundamental right to grow in a family that constitutes a mother and a father. The best way to secure this right is to establish a lifelong, loving and stable marriage between a responsible man and woman. A Child is the greatest gift to a family and country. Children are the sons and daughters of a country and its citizens. If we are concerned about the future, then we must look at the way children are raised today. The best way to protect and support children is to protect and support marriage. Therefore, marriage should be encouraged, supported and protected in every possible way. Eritrea became a signatory to the international Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as early as 1994 following its independence. As one of the first state signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Eritrea remains fully committed to its operationalization. The new civil and penal code of Eritrea has many good qualities in relation to the rights of a child. Art 567(1) of the civil code specifies that “the spouses shall cooperate …to ensure the moral and material direction of the family, the upbringing of the children and the preparation of the children for their place in society”.

The greatest resource we have lies in the families that produced children. The national charter of Eritrea (1994) recognizes the strength and quality of our nation’s families that will determine the development of our nation. It states that “Our vision is for Eritrea to preserve its identity and uniqueness, develop commitment to family and community care…”. Therefore, if the quality of a family has the power to determine the success of our nation, then the marital quality will determine our nation’s destiny. For this reason, marriage needs full legal protection. In Eritrea, two kinds of marriages are legally approved and protected. Marriages may take place before a civil-status officer or in accordance with the religion or local custom of the parties. In both forms of marriage a man and a woman who are below eighteen years of age are not allowed to enter the contract of marriage.

Eritrea has sufficient human and material resources for its development. However, a nation is built on and secured by values other than these resources. The family is the first place where values are acquired, nurtured and transmitted. The first task of the family is to be the first good school where a child learns important social values. The family is the first school in Eritrea to teach and pass on our rich cultural heritage and the progressive values developed during our liberation struggle such as love of country, respect for humanity, solidarity between men and women, love of truth and justice, respect for law, hard work, self-confidence, self-reliance, open mindedness and inventiveness. A healthy and stable marriage is the key to the formation of a viable nation. A healthy marriage adds important ingredients to nation building, peace and prosperity. Our country becomes great only by the efforts of stable, responsible and faithful men and women.

Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies, for they are the foundations of strong families. The strength of the nation depends on the strength of its families and the strength of families depends on the strength of marriage. So the quality of marriage has an upper hand in influencing the success of a nation. Therefore, the society and the government must promote and defend marriage and the family from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature.

The right to marry and found a family is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Article 16 (1) states that ‘men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family’. Eritrean customary and modern laws also affirm the truth that marriage is a life-giving union of a man and a woman. Chapter 5 of the new penal code of Eritrea condemns the offences against marriage and the family. Fraud and deceit in marriage are severely punishable crimes in Eritrea.

Whether we like it or not the future strength of Eritrea will depend on the quality of the present marriages and families. The religious and political communities as well as the society as a whole have to bear their responsibility adequately to honor and protect marriage and family and ensure their sustainability.