Abstract

The Solomon Islands attained independence in 1978. In common with many other former colonies it inherited marriage laws that provided for the formal celebration of marriage by either a civil or religious ceremony and for the recognition of customary marriages. The laws regulating the formal celebration of marriage provided separate formalities for expatriates, British and non-British, and Islanders. Post-independence this statutory legacy has largely remained undisturbed. Several questions relating to customary marriages lay dormant. What exactly was the recognition process for customary marriages, especially those between parties affiliated to different groups? Could an Islander enter into a customary marriage with a non-Islander? What is the effect of the annulment of a formal marriage when the parties are also married in custom? What are the practicalities and benefits of registration of customary marriages? These and other questions are examined in the light of the recent landmark decision in Rebitai v Chow and Others and conclude that an overhaul of the laws on marriage is overdue.

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