Kiribati - Age of Sexual Consent

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Marriage: Frequently Asked Questions

General information
What is marriage?
Can anyone get married?
What can I do if I want to get married but my parents will not give their permission?
How does it affect me?
How do I get married?
What happens at the marriage ceremony?
Marriage by proxy
What does the term NULLITY mean?
The People’s Lawyer

General information

If you are already married you cannot marry someone else. If you wish to marry someone else you must first obtain a
divorce from your existing husband.

You cannot marry someone who is within a prohibited degree of relationship with yourself The prohibited degrees of
relationship are set out in Schedule 1 of the Marriage Ordinance. Under Kiribati custom, other degrees of relationships
are frowned upon even though they are not legally prohibited.

What is marriage?

Marriage in Kiribati must be the voluntary union (joining) of one man to one woman to the exclusion of all others. The
consent of the future husband and wife must be real and not forced.

This means that you can only have one legal marriage to one other person of the opposite sex. Both parties must enter
the marriage voluntarily. If either is being forced into the marriage then the marriage can be declared a Nullity (of no legal

Can anyone get married?

If you or your proposed husband is under the age of 16 then you cannot get married.

If either one of you is under the age of 21 then you can only get married with the written consent of your father. If he is
dead, of unsound mind or away from the district, you can ask your mother or if both your parents are dead, of unsound
mind or away from the island your guardian can give consent. If there is no such person, the Registrar General of births,
deaths and marriages may allow the marriage if he is satisfied that it is proper one.

What can I do if I want to get married but my parents will not give their

The Registrar General of births, deaths and marriages may dispense with the need for consent if he is satisfied that the
refusal to give consent is not given with proper reason and that the marriage should take place.

How does it affect me?

If you are a wife within a marriage that is not recognised by the law, the law calls you a de facto wife (a wife in fact as
opposed to wife in law). You should be concerned because if your marriage is not recognised by law if you separate from
your de facto husband you and possibly your children are denied what little protection the law has to offer to lawfully
married women.

How do I get married?

If you wish to get married, you or your proposed husband must give at least 21 days notice to the registrar of the district
where the marriage is to take place. The registrar is usually the Assistant Clerk to the Council on each island. The
registrar then gives notice to the public of the intended marriage to see if there are any objections. If there are any
objections the registrar must investigate and cannot issue a certificate for marriage until he is satisfied that the objection
is not valid. The registrar can only issue his certificate for marriage if:

one of the parties has been resident on the island where the marriage is to take place for at least 28 days;
the required consent or consents have been obtained; and
Once the certificate for marriage has been issued then marriage ceremony must take place within 3 months of
the notice of marriage. If this does not happen, you will need to go through the process again.

What happens at the marriage ceremony?

Civil Ceremony: This is a marriage which does not take place in church. It is the registrar who will conduct the
ceremony either in the registry (usually situated in the Island Council Offices) or in a court house. The marriage must
take place between 8 in the morning and 8 at night and you must have two witnesses with you.

Religious Ceremony: It is a minister of religion or a lay preacher who will conduct the service in a church or other public
place of worship. The marriage must take place between 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening and, as in the civil
ceremony, you must have two witnesses with you.

In both ceremonies both of you must freely express your wish to get married. All marriages must be voluntary. You and
your witnesses will have to sign a certificate of marriage and you will be given a copy of it. It is very important that you
keep this certificate of marriage safe as you may have to show it to people later on if you ever need to prove
that you are married.

Marriage by proxy

If you or your proposed husband is resident out of Kiribati you can get married without yourself or your proposed
husband coming to Kiribati if authorized by the Registrar General.

What does the term NULLITY mean?

Nullity of Marriage is the legal process which is used to obtain an order from the Court either to say that the marriage
never existed in law (Void) or that there was some fact about the marriage and the Court should declare it to be of no
legal effect.

A Nullity decree (order or declaration) will be made if at the date when the marriage took place any of these
situations existed:

One of the parties was already married;
The parties were related too closely by blood or marriage;
The marriage was not conducted in the way the Islander’s Marriage Act says it should;
Either party did not freely agree to the marriage;
Either party was not old enough;
The Court will declare a marriage a nullity where either party can show at the time of the marriage;
One of the parties was incapable of having sexual intercourse;
One of the parties was suffering from an unsound mind or was mentally ill;
One of the parties was suffering from a Venereal Disease which was contagious;
The wife was pregnant by someone other than the husband.

The People’s Lawyer

If you want any advice about the legal aspects and implications of getting married, you can ask the People’s Lawyer.

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