Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998

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This law defines “customary marriage” as the marriage between a man and a woman performed according to the tribal tradition of their locality and provides that a wife’s rights and duties within a customary marriage are the same as a wife’s rights and duties in a statutory marriage (a statutory marriage is a civil marriage license under the Domestic Relations Law). §2.1 provides that all customary marriages are legal, and the duties and liabilities of the statutory wife shall be accorded to all customary wives. §2.2 provides that the husband shall not recover the dowry from the wife or her parents; while §2.3 provides that a customary wife receives one-third of her husband’s property upon marriage. §2.6 provides that a customary wife has exclusive right to the properties she receives before or during the marriage, but she needs the husband’s consent to conduct business in her own name. §2.6 also states, however, that if the husband attempts to control his wife’s property he will have committed theft of property and he will be subject to a fine for such theft. §2.9 establishes that the minimum age for a tribal woman to enter into a customary marriage is 16, while §2.10 provides that the parents shall not choose the husband for their daughter against her will. Various sections provide for the rights of women on the event of her husband’s death: §3.2 states that a widow in a customary marriage is entitled to one-third of her deceased husband’s property; §3.3 provides that the widow has the freedom to enter into a new marriage upon the death of her husband; §3.5 provides that the widow has the right to petition to the probate court to administer the property of the decedent; §3.4 prohibits the husband’s family from compelling a widow to marry her deceased husband’s relative; and §3.7 establishes that the living spouse retain the right to custody of the minor children.



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