Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Man got (then lost) an annulment -- for this?

A headline in today's Toronto Star reads "Muslim loses virginity case". Stupid wording in my opinion, but here's the gist: Some time ago, a Muslim man in France sought an annulment from his wife because, he claimed, his bride "lied about being a virgin." A lower court granted the man's request but an appeals court has reinstated the marriage; saying that's not a good enough reason, that an annulment can only be granted if one of the partners "has misrepresented his or her essential qualities.'"

Guess virginity doesn't count as one of them. What, he actually believed she had been telling him the truth? Prosecutors said granting an annulment would amount to discrimination against women -- and I totally agree with that.

This isn't a swipe against any one religion in particular. Not long after the Charter of Rights came into force in Canada a number of Christian husbands tried to block their wives from divorcing them saying their religion forbade a divorce and they took an oath to be married "until death do us part" -- in other words, divorce against one's beliefs amounted to violating one's freedom of religion.

The courts correctly ruled that the state is not concerned with the religious aspects of a marriage even if is held in a place of worship; only the civil aspects since a minister, rabbi or imam is also a licensed agent of the state. In the event of bona fide marital breakdown a divorce must be granted since, in the view of the state, anything that comes after the only legally required words "I take you to be my wife / husband" is obiter dicta (excess verbiage); a religious separation based on what comes after those words (or violation thereof) is a matter for the denomination to decide, not the state.

I don't like divorce especially as my parents split up that way, but sometimes that is the only option. If the woman misrepresented her "nature" such that it was, then the man should have sought an immediate divorce, not an annulment -- then pressed charges of fraud if he thought the lie amounted to a breach of trust. Even then I don't anyone would take the man seriously. If everyone was bound to the double standard he would have liked the courts to abide by, the divorce rate would double overnight -- and civil courts throughout the EU have a notoriously long backlog.

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