“Marriage, whether civil or religious, is a contract, formally entered into. It confers on the parties the status of husband and wife, the essence of the contract being an agreement between a man and a woman to live together, and to love one another as husband and wife, to the exclusion of all others”.
This is the universal and perhaps most comprehensive characterization of marriage. Among the most controversial aspects of this is the element of consent. This is encapsulated in the concept of a contract. In a contract consent that is not tainted by force or coercion is essential to its validity. Consequently, it is also a major of controversy for marriage. This is compounded by the fact that marriages as a social phenomenon are diverse and multi-faceted.
The forces governing present society in the present have imposed significant challenges upon marriage. These adverse forces have given rise to a wide array of problems. The government today struggle tot to protect and uphold family and marriages by finding means to deal with the various problems that undermine them.
This also challenges the state to uphold society’s many concepts of marriage while also containing negative elements attributed to it. Furthermore, it has to strike the balance between its power to regulate society, society’s right to culture and the welfare of its citizens. This is not a mundane task given the complexity involved and the magnitude of the harms involved society today.
Among the malign realities faced by society today are “forced marriages.” This kind of marriage “is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of both parties, where duress is a factor. Duress can range from emotional pressure from family members to threatening behavior, abduction or imprisonment, and physical violence”.