Editorial: Same-Sex Unions and The Marriage Contract

Published: June 5, 2014

Stripped to its core, marriage, in law, is a contract between two persons – in Jamaica’s case, a man and a woman – who agree, broadly, to pool their assets and, usually, live together.

Their motivation, mostly, is because they love each other and want to commit their lives together, or so they believe. This sometimes includes having children and raising a family.

But judging from the statistics, marriage is not a particularly popular institution in Jamaica, and is becoming increasingly so. For instance, according to the national census of 2011, nearly 70 per cent of Jamaicans over 16, the age at which people can legally marry, never did.

And those who marry are abrogating the contract at an increasingly faster rate. For example, in 2005, there were just under 26,000 marriages in the island and Jamaicans were tying the knot at the rate of 9.78 per 1,000 population. Five years later, the number of couples walking down the aisles had dropped by approximately 5,500, or 21 per cent.

At the same time, divorce was on the increase. At the middle of the last decade, there were around 1,800 divorces annually, or approximately seven divorces per 100 marriages. By 2010, the number of divorces had climbed by 31 per cent, or at a rate of 111/2 per 100 marriages. A not unexpected upshot of all this is that 80 per cent of Jamaica’s children are born out of wedlock and the bulk of them have no registered fathers on their birth certificates.

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