The Family Court has published regulations requiring that foreign men applying to marry Maldivian women must earn at least Rf15,000 (US$972) per month.
“We have been acting on this for a while. This has attracted public attention only because we announced the regulations this year,” said Ahmed Abdullah, Marriage Registrar at the Family Court.
The regulation stipulates that a foreigner has to earn at least Rf15,000 and submit written proof of his salary if he is employed by the government, or submit six months of bank account statements if he is working in the private sector.
Abdullah explained that this applies only to foreign men and not to foreign women wishing to marry locals, “as it is the man who has to support his wife.”
“It is mostly women who are victims when a mixed marriage like this goes wrong,” Abdullah said.
Maldivian men do not have to earn the minimum amount to get married: “A local man has a home or a family to turn to, whereas if you are a foreigner you have to rent a place so we have taken that into account when drafting the regulations.”
The court has heard cases in which the foreign man has walked away with the local woman’s money and jewelry, he said.
“When a man does not earn enough he will be desperate, and some men marry local women for ease of life. We had a case where a local woman came out of her shower to find her jewellery missing, and later that her Bangladeshi husband had fled the country with it.”
Abdullah says that even when marriages take place abroad between a foreign man and a local woman, it was often the woman who came in to register the marriage.
“We have cases where the woman comes in for the registration, does not have supporting documents, and when we ask the foreign man to come he does not turn up. A man can easily walk away from a marriage,” he said.
To counter this, the regulation for registering marriages abroad also states that if the marriage takes place in a country that has a Maldivian embassy, the embassy has to stamp a document stating that the marriage was conducted by a person or group that has been authorised by the host country to conduct Muslim marriages: “This way there is additional supporting document by a government authority.”
The regulations also specify that based on “certain factors” the marriage registrar can give permission for those under 18 to get married.
“This also has been practised for a while. In very rare cases we have allowed those under 18 to get married,” Abdullah said.
The marriage registrar has the authority to grant permission for those under the legal age of 18 to marry, after taking into consideration factors such as their physical and mental health, police records, and the view of the guardians or parents.
“We will get a medical doctor’s opinion on the physical health of those concerned, and we ask for police reports so that the person and parents in question can make an informed decision,” Abdullah explained.
The reason why a person under 18 wanted to get married is also taken into consideration.
“If they say they are in love, that is not necessarily a good reason to grant the marriage, as children in Grade 6 and 7 also think they are in love sometimes,” he said. “They have to be in a position to realise what marriage is.”
Abdullah would not say what a good reason was, stating only that “we will take it case by case and this is something we grant rarely.”