Journal Article

Legal Regulation of Marital Relations: An Historical and Comparative Approach

Arlette Gautier

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 19, issue 1, pages 47-72
Published in print April 2005 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online April 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/ebi003
Legal Regulation of Marital Relations: An Historical and Comparative Approach

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How have the legal regulations of marriage evolved over time in different countries? To answer this question, various sources from legal codes, case studies and 40 reports to the Commission to Eliminate Discrimination against Women were analysed. Marriage codes, be they western, Islamic or Chinese, traditionally obliged the wife to obey the husband by Divine law. During the age of Atlantic revolutions, laws generally made this obedience more binding before relaxing constraints to give more freedom to wives at the beginning of the twentieth century and even complete equality in a few countries by 1920. In 2003, 83 countries had egalitarian marriage rights, 38 admitted the husband as the head of the family and 57 maintained the obligatory obedience of the wife. If legal equality within marriage had progressed in Europe and America, it still is an objective in half the other countries.

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Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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