A draft law was announced to amend items of the general penal code to impose a punishment of imprisonment for 10 days to six months for all those who marry outside the court, whether those under contract (the spouses), their representatives, or relevant witnesses, before completing the procedures stipulated by the Personal Status Law.
The draft, which Al-Watan obtained a copy of, stipulates that a financial penalty of 5,000-10,000 Syrian pounds shall be imposed on those who contract such a marriage outside the court, after the fine had ranged from 100-200 pounds.
The draft strengthens the punishment against those who marry legally knowing that the marriage is invalid because of a previous marriage, or for any of the reasons for invalidation stipulated in the Personal Status Law from one to three years, indicating that the same punishment would be applied to anyone who contracts the noted marriage with knowledge of his previous marriage.
The draft amends Article 469 of the Penal Code related to the marriage of minors to impose a penalty of two months to a year on all those who contract marriage with a minor who has not reached 18 years of age outside the relevant court without the approval of the minor’s guardian.
The draft indicates that it reduces the aforementioned penalty to half if the marriage contract is done with the approval of the guardian, while the punishment in the current law is a fine of between 100 to 200 Syrian pounds.
The draft imposes a penalty of imprisonment from two months to a year on all those who marry a woman outside the relevant court before its end or without meeting the conditions for the certificate specified in the the Personal Status Law, while the current fine ranges from 100 to 200 Syrian pounds.
The draft imposes the punishments noted above against the contracting parties, their representatives, and witnesses who attend the marriage in that capacity.
Judicial sources revealed that 70 percent of Syrians are married under customary law, which is outside the court, before establishing the marriage in the relevant court, adding that the draft comes to curb customary marriages.
The sources said that the imposition of imprisonment as a penalty for customary marriage will prevent citizens from holding these marriages, noting that it has become a custom among Syrian families to do the "katab al-kitab" before establishing the marriage in the court, calling for a review of this punishment.
The sources supported raising the financial penalties for those who hold customary marriages, given that this is an administrative violation, saying that it is not major as the punishment does not exceed 10,000 Syrian pounds.
The sources stressed the need to address the reasons for the recent increase of customary marriage before imposing penalties on this, including those related to young men who have migrated who are resorting to sending agents from their family to contract the marriage, which causes major difficulties in addition to other reasons.
With regards to invalid marriages, the sources expressed their support for strengthening the penalty given that it is a cause for social disruption that most be punished in order to eliminate it entirely.
The sources noted that the marriage of minors has conditions and regulations specified by the law and therefore any violation must meet severe punishment, adding that the conditions specified by the law include that the minor’s body be physically mature enough for marriage and that there is not a difference in the areas and that the guardian is in attendance, among others.
The sources said that the rate of marriages of minors in 2016 did not exceed 3 percent in Damascus, and that this was an indication of the low rates compared to the number of marriages that the court establishes daily, adding that the statistics indicated that marriage of minors last longer than others once divorce cases are counted.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.