Customary marriage in Sebha
No one actually has a clue of the complicated demographic structure of southern Libya so far, nevertheless its local citizens and simple inlanders whom they only wanted to find a loving partner.
M.A.Aisha a social researcher and an employee in the social affairs office in Sebha says that the limited freedom of movement for women in Sebha and the lack of knowledge for most ladies who are customary married that a social affairs office exists in Sebha had played a big role in the vogue of this type of marriage, even though the office exists since 1968 but most of these women are not aware that they need to get approval from the office to get their marriage certified, and that in some cases this type of marriage is being done for geographical reasons where the husband is Sudanese, Chadian, Nigerian ..etc. and sometimes it's hard for them to provide required documents for a certified and formal marriage because they have no Embassies in Libya to represent them.
What is Customary Marriage?
In an interview conducted with Mr.Abud Alnasir Adnan the authorized senior of the primary court in Sebha, Said that customary marriage is basically any contract that had been made without formal documentation even with the knowledge of the family and relatives, whereas marriage is considered legit as long as there were witnesses and the guardian in case she was a virgin (not married before) or without the legal guardian if she was divorced or a widow.
Mr.Abud Alnasir continues by saying that marriage is considered Legit religion-wise but not formally documented for registering children which can lack guarantees for the wife's rights regarding heritage and allowance in case the marriage remained unlicensed or undocumented.
This type of marriage is not new to Libya and exists in many Libyan cities in varying proportions
He continues adding that local citizens started adopting this type of marriage for many developments that came up on the social combination in southern Libya and countries beneath the Sahara desert, where this is due to the lack of complete documents like national ID number because of the complicated procedures that come with it for citizens and foreigners when Gaddafi resettled them in the southern province.
There are also many people who are not aware of the formal procedures of marriage and who do not know the legal age allowed to get married especially for women - 18 years old according to Libyan regulations- and sometimes the license expiration of the legal authorizer who continues doing his job with no validation which complicates certifying the marriage with us.
I never imagined to be a part of a customary marriage story, I thought that these cases only happen in Egyptian soap operas.
I am a third party in this story
That's how the 35 years old mother of four kids Khadija from Sebha starts her talk, that she is a victim because her husband was engaged in a customary marriage with another woman behind her back, which he only told her about it so he can certify it in court and only after his second wife sued him to prove the marriage and to push on formal recognition, Khadija adds with grief that she was treating her husband in a good way and lived a stable life with him even though he had many relationships with other women calling him a “Womanizer” - cultural nickname for a man who has multi-relationships with different women- and having multiple and irrational relationships.
Khadija continues that even though his marriage lasted for just a year without anyone knowing about it except the second wife ́s family which later on sued him to prove the marriage after she got pregnant, but Khadija didn't believe that.
The judge had ruled to register the marriage legally without putting any punishments or deterrent to stop this type of marriage in the future.
Khadija adds with obvious sorrow that after all this she fled with him to Tripoli to keep him away from his Ex-wife after pressure from his family, and actually, the divorce occurred in a random unknown situation so she can't guarantee that he wouldn't go back to her or any other woman with the ease of these procedures for this type of marriage, so I would be the last to know wife once again.
Amina, a 30 years old woman from Sebha which is considered the first victim of her marriage that she didn't know was a customary marriage and not certified in court, Amina married in 2009 by a legal authorizer in Altayori region in Sebha, and after a week she got the marriage certificate that she thought was formal and certified.
But reluctantly Amina said that after many years and during so she gave birth to two children in the hospital with no complications or issues, and only while giving birth to her third child and under the new extreme procedures of Sebha medical center she found out by coincidence that the contract is invalid, the administration of the hospital informed her of that and therefore forbid her from vaccinating her daughter for not owning a certified marriage contract.
The Tuwariq originated Amina keeps telling her story that now she is suing her husband after getting affirmation from the court that it was invalid to prove their marriage especially after being a victim of an expired license authorizer where he was not able to register their marriage in court.
Amina says that she is now suffering from the mistake of a legal authorizer who did not take into account the ethics of his profession and left her for years in a lie that she owned valid paper, Amina adds that she regrets that there is no law that would criminalize such people and punish them.
It is not a customary marriage
Mr.Ali Almalimdi a specialized lawyer in proving marriage cases declares his rejection to the term “customary marriage” and rather calling it uncertified marriage, his argument is that marriage in Sebha happens with the acceptance of the legal guardian of the wife and attendance of witnesses, plus having a dowry for the bride which makes it a full-fledged marriage, but what is keeping it apart of normal marriage is only not being certified by the legal authorizer, so that's why initially it should be called uncertified marriage or formally undocumented.
Mr.Ali adds that the consequences of this type of marriage are huge such as not owning a family status certificates or documents and children birth certificates where it makes it harder to give birth in a public hospital with the lack of certified marriage contract.
Certifying marriages today became a purpose only to get medical care to get birth certificates
So those who are customary married only tend to certify their marriage when new babies are coming or to get medical care or formal identifications.
Mr.Ali clarifies the reasons for having this phenomena especially in Sebha or surrounding areas that they are semi-bordered cities with different races in African countries and mixed roots, the majority of people who don't certify their contracts were out of Libya and in societies that don't require legal registration, plus adding the factor of poverty and ignorance of the importance of these marriage procedures is the actual reason of spreading these phenomena across the previous and current generations.
He also adds that regression of education and the lack of community awareness of how to do these procedures in the south has played a big role, especially in slums.