Soloman Islands - Age of Sexual Consent

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Family Support Centre

Legal Literacy For Women - Know Your Rights


What is Marriage?
How many types of legal marriage are there?
Are all types of marriage recognised by the law and the Courts?
Custom Marriages
How does this affect me?
Can I be forced to marry?
How old must I be to get married?
What if I want to get married but my parents will not give their consent?
What if someone else objects to the marriage?
Who can I marry?
What do I have to do to get legally married?
What if I can’t wait for 21 days?
Where can I get Married?
The marriage must be public
There must be at least two witnesses
Do I have to take my husband’s surname when I marry?
What is NULLITY?

What is Marriage?

In the Solomon Islands marriage is the voluntary union (joining) of one man to one woman.

You can only have one legal marriage to one other person of the opposite sex at a time. This means that if a man has two
wives at the same time the second marriage is illegal. It is actually a crime called ‘Bigamy’ to knowingly have a second

If you agree to be a second wife you should know that your marriage is not recognised by the law. If you are a second wife
who has not had a legal marriage you have no legal rights to apply for maintenance, a share of matrimonial property and so
on if you separate.

How many types of legal marriage are there?

There are three types of legal marriage in the Solomon Islands - civil, church (religious), and custom marriages.

There is no legal difference between a church and a civil marriage as long as the religious person who marries you is registered
by the government to perform marriages.

He or she must be a registered marriage officer. Nearly all ministers of established religions are registered, but you should ask
before you marry to make sure.

If you are married by a person who is not registered you are not legally married.

Are all types of marriage recognised by the law and the Courts?

Only legal marriages are recognised in the Solomon Islands as being valid marriages. Most communities have religious
ceremonies of marriage as well as the legal ceremony which is officiated (legally conducted) by a certified marriage officer.

Custom Marriages

A marriage properly performed according to custom is also recognised by the courts as a legal marriage.

If you are married in custom you can apply to a Magistrates Court to register your marriage. To do this you and your husband
will need to sign a form called a Statutory Declaration.

People often do this if a marriage certificate is needed by some official, for example if they need to get a passport or for a NPF
withdrawal or payment.

If you register your marriage it will make it easier to use your rights and protection under the law. However, most people in the
Solomon Islands do not register their marriage and the Courts recognise this. This means that in practice even if you have an
unregistered custom marriage you will be able to apply for maintenance for yourself.

A registered marriage can only be ended in the High Court. An unregistered marriage can only be ended according to custom.

How does this 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 a wife in law), or a common law or ‘stop together’ wife.

It is important to know this because a legally married wife is in a much better position than a defacto wife. As the law only
recognises legal marriages, if you separate from your de facto husband then you and possibly your children may be denied what
protection the law has to offer to legally married women.

If you are not legally married then you will not be able to get a legally recognised divorce, and you may not be able to get other
orders from the Court which is dependent upon there being a legally recognised marriage, eg. maintenance order for yourself.

Can I be forced to marry?

No you cannot. The law says that no-one can be forced to marry. Both you and your husband must marry because you want
to, of your own free choice, and not because you are being threatened or pressured by anybody.

If either you or the man is being forced against your will into the marriage it will not be a legal marriage.

The marriage can be declared a Nullity (of no legal effect). Nullity is different from getting a divorce. We will look more closely
at Nullity later in this leaflet.

How old must I be to get married?

The minimum legal age for marriage, with the consent (agreement) of your parents to your marriage is 15 years old.

To marry without the consent of your parents you must be over 18 years old.

The consent has to be given by the father. If he is dead or living in another district then the mother can give her consent.

A non-islander (ex-patriate) must be 21 years old to marry without their parents consent.

If your parents are dead then whoever is looking after you (your guardian) can give consent, or if there is no one else the
Magistrate can give consent.

What if I want to get married but my parents will not give their consent?

If you are over 15 and under 18 years old and your parents will not agree to your marriage then you can go to the Magistrates
Court and ask the Magistrate to allow your marriage.

The Magistrate has the power to consent to your marriage even if your parents will not.

The Magistrate can give you permission to marry if you can show that:

consent is being "unreasonably withheld" by your parent or guardian. This means that they do not have a good enough
reason to stop you from marrying. Just because your parents do not like the person you want to marry, or want you to
marry someone else, that is not a good enough reason for refusing to agree to your marriage, or

your parents are unable to give their consent, eg. if they are not living in the Solomon Islands, or

your parents are incapable of giving their consent

To get the consent of the magistrate, you will first have to apply at the Court Registry Office asking for special permission to

You will need to prepare a form and take it to the Magistrate's office. There is no standard form but you can ask the Court
Clerk to give you a photocopy of an old form which you can then copy. The Court Clerk should also help you to write out your

The Magistrate will need to hear evidence from you and from your parents or guardians. Your parents will have a chance to
give their reasons for not agreeing to your marriage. You will then be given a chance to explain why they are being

The Magistrate will not give you permission to marry unless you can show that your parents were given copies of the
application, and he is satisfied they know about the court case.

This can be done by getting an ‘Affidavit of Service’ - this is a written statement made by the person who delivered a copy to

What if someone else objects to the marriage?

If there is anyone who thinks that your marriage should not go ahead, that person has a chance to make an objection and say
why they do not think you should marry.

You and your intended husband will then be given the chance to answer the objection and the Magistrate will decide whether
the objection is reasonable or not.

This is very rare but if someone does object they must bring proof of the things which they are saying would stop you from

A person may object because they believe you:

are legally too young to marry; or

have been forced to marry against your will; or

or are too closely related to the person you wish to marry.

Who can I marry?

You can legally marry anyone who is not already married, and who is old enough to marry, apart from certain close relatives:

your mother or father, including your adopted mother or father
your child, including an adopted child
your brother or sister, including half brothers and sisters (that is, if the person has the same mother or the same father as
your grandparent
your grandchild.

What do I have to do to get legally married?

First you will have to give notice of your intended marriage to the Registrar of Marriages in your district. You do this on a form
that you can get from the Magistrates Court Office, or from the church where you are getting married.

Once completed, you take the form with your parent’s consent, if necessary, to the Registrar. He or she will then arrange for
you to make a Declaration. This is simply a process where you declare to the person that the written statement is true. You will
also have to pay a fee.

A Notice is then displayed on the noticeboard at the Office for at least 21 days. After this period has finished you can ask the
Registrar for a certificate that the rules have been followed, and as long as no lawful objection has come to the notice of the
Registrar you will be given a certificate (Marriage licence).

You can now go through the marriage ceremony at any time as long as it is within 3 months of the date that the Notice was
posted up.

If for some reason you are unable to have the marriage ceremony within the 3 month period you will have to start the process

If you want to be married in church you must also give 21 days notice which must be posted up in the church where you intend
to marry. Again you have 3 months from the time the notice was first put up in which to get married.

What if I can’t wait for 21 days?

It is possible to get a Special Licence from the Minister of Home Affairs which will enable you to marry straight away. This
Licence lasts for within 28 days of the special licence being granted.

Where can I get Married?

The marriage must be public

A marriage must be performed in public. This means that it must be performed openly in front of witnesses. If it is performed in
secret it is not a legal marriage.

There must be at least two witnesses

There must be at least two witnesses who are over the age of 21 years at the marriage ceremony. Witnesses are people who
can see and hear what is going on i.e. are present at the marriage ceremony.

You and your husband-to-be must freely state your wish to marry each other in front of the two witnesses and the marriage

Do I have to take my husband’s surname when I marry?

No, you do not have to. There is no legal obligation to do so.

What is NULLITY?

Nullity of Marriage is a legal process which is used either to say that the marriage never really existed in law, or that there was
something wrong with 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 you was already married to someone else
You were related too closely by blood or marriage
The marriage was not conducted in the way the Islanders Marriage Act says it should be
One of you did not freely agree to the marriage
One of you was not old enough to marry

The Court can declare a marriage a nullity where either party can show at the time of the marriage;

One of you was incapable of having sexual intercourse
One of you was suffering from an unsound mind or was mentally defective
One of you was suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form
You were pregnant by someone other than your husband.

and that they did not know about this and only found out later on.

You can get more help from:

Family Support Centre
PO Box 1725, Honiara
Telephone: 26 999

Public Solicitor’s Office
Auki - Telephone 40 175
Gizo - Telephone 60 175
Honiara - Telephone 22 348

some words explained:

consent - to agree to something freely, honestly, without being forced and with a clear mind

divorce - the legal ending of a marriage in the courts (marriage can also be ended by nullity or death)

evidence - proof of what the facts are; for example, proof of someone’s age

legal - according to the written law

maintenance - the food, clothing and other basic needs that a husband must provide for his wife and children, even after
divorce or separation.

matrimonial property - the goods, property and money that a husband and wife own together in a marriage, which is divided
up when they separate or divorce

order - a decision of the court, written down on paper and saying what should happen

separation - when a married couple stop living together as husband and wife

venereal disease - any infectious disease that is passed on by having sex, such as syphilis or gonorrhea

This leaflet is one of a series published by the Family Support Centre to help you to understand and to use the law.
Other leaflets available to you are:

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