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Simple Marriage Reform Act

Comment 5th July 2010

Civil marriage as it is currently, is too rigid, too prescriptive and too Christian. In its place we should introduce a far more flexible structure which allows easier divorce with less emotional, legal and financial pain and allows any agreeable financial arangement between a man and a woman that works for them.

The essential value of a marriage contract is that it is an explicit, witnessed agreement by a woman to have sexual relations only with one man. In this way any resulting children and financial obligations which go along with them are clearly the responsibility of that man and not another.

If marriage is defined legally in this way, then divorce can be made similarly easy. This commitment by a woman can be made in exchange for a consideration in the form of a financial commitment or payment by the man which is entirely negotiable. As such this is a simple exchange – quid pro quo.

If either party wants to end the marriage they must at most free the other party from their commitment. In the case of the man, that is simply to let the woman be free to find another man. In the case of the woman wanting to break the marriage at most she must simply release the man from his financial commitment by perhaps returning the money he originally paid.

A divorce should take the form of notice being given and then only coming into effect after 3 months, to give the parties enough time to see if the woman is pregnant and be sure who the father is and also enough time to reconsider their course of action.

Last but not least once marriage can be made this flexible and easy to enter and leave, the rules on what constitutes "mutual consent" can be improved.

Instead of the law requiring that a woman has to prove her lack of consent to have sex when she is raped, the mere fact that she has not entered into a simple marriage contract could be used to show she did not consent to have sex. The burden of proof in such cases would then shift to the man to prove that the woman had indeed consented.

Mutual consent to sexual relations is therefore by default missing unless proven otherwise by for example producing a written and witnessed consent agreement (i.e.a simple marraige contract).

This will provide a great protection to vulnerable people who feel pressured and unable to resist sexually aggressive people.

Why does this matter?

Marriage is a dying institution because it has too many injustices built in. Divorce settlements are widely seen as unjust and extortionate. 

Without a clear  and fair legal structure for marriage which people are happy to use, families and society suffer all sorts of unecessary ills.

In particular, too many rapes happen and too many people get away with them. Reforming the laws about marriage in this way will help cure the situation and protect vulnerable people.

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