6 January 2018

Burundi: Talks Set Over Burundi Disputed Marriage Law

Burundi is planning consultations with the Muslim community on the implementation of a controversial law requiring all marriages to be registered.

The deadline for cohabiting couples to regularise their marriages passed on December 31, with the government saying at least 90 per cent of those targeted had complied.

However, Muslims say the law, which is enshrined in the country's Constitution undermines the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and Muslim law (Sharia) which allow polygamy.

Muslims are allowed to marry up to four wives but only one can be recognised when the union is registered.

"Those with many wives are required to only choose one to be registered. This is not democracy! It is like we are no longer citizens," said a Muslim cleric Sheikh Zuberi Mutembo.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza recently warned those who failed to legalise their marriages by the deadline will face the law. They face a jail term of between one and three months and fines of between $60 and $200.

However, human-rights minister Martin Nivyabandi said talks between government officials and Muslim leaders slated for next month will focus on modalities for implementing the law.

"We are organising a workshop in order to settle these issues but everybody should respect the law," said Mr Nivyabandi.

According to a survey conducted by the home ministry last year, about 160,000 couples were expected to legalise their marriages, meaning 16,000 could face the law.

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