Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Can you keep marriage a secret?

wedding ring
As more young couples in Egypt decide to marry behind closed doors, would you enter into a secret marriage, and why?

Egypt's newspapers are full of stories about young people getting married secretly.

The couples claim they are forced into what are known as "Urfi" because it offers them a way round a society that frowns upon sex before marriage.

What would make you enter into a secret marriage? Is there something stopping you from being with the person you want to be with? Are you in a secret marriage or do you know someone who is?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

I'm not advocating urfi marriages
Samia, Cairo, Egypt

Since society and family would not acknowledge the agreement between two lovebirds it pushes them into secrecy. But what happens when they divorce, from the Islamic point of view marriages are never to be contracted secretively because that would not then be considered as marriage since it is the unification of two families.
Abubakar Ibrahim, Antwerp, Belgium

Secret marriages have no place in a free and liberal society. When people have no true freedom to legally do what they like, then things like secret marriages ensue.
Ulrick Mumburi, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Keeping a marriage secret? As for me I can't keep it secret, because I think anybody who keep his marriage secret, they don't love each other.
Abdullahi, india

The socio-economic constraints of marriage in Egypt have resulted in the prominence of "urfi" marriages. In a country battling with a high unemployment rate and low wages, particularly among the youth, societal norms nonetheless dictate that marriage can only take place when a man can provide an apartment with all the furnishings, a dowry in the form of gold for his bride, and a decent wage to be able to support his future family. The vast majority of young men cannot provide these things, forcing them into legal unions much later in life. I'm not advocating urfi marriages, but in light of the prerequisites for marriage in Egypt, it only makes sense that these secret unions are on the rise.
Samia, Cairo, Egypt

I firmly think secret marriages should be promoted in Africa
Saye Maye Cole, Matadi, Liberia

I firmly think secret marriages should be promoted in Africa. Marriages have become a financial burden for families. Why would you want to empty your pocket on a single day and the next day you have no money to put food on the table? More secrets marriages in Africa are an indication that more and more Africans are exhibiting their constitutional and god given rights.
Saye Maye Cole, Matadi, Liberia

Secret marriage seldom happens in Somali culture. However it does sometimes happen in the rural areas, when a family wants to arrange a marriage for their daughter, but the daughter wants another man, so she will enter into secret marriage. Dalmar, USA

I will never enter into a secret Marriage because marriage is not to be hidden. It is a life time agreement, so, no matter what you do, people will still get to know. It is true that some parents will not allow their children to be with the person they love because of their family background or religious or cultural belief but it is not proper for young couples to get married secretly. And I will never agree to a thing like that.
James, Accra, Ghana

Why should one then marry behind closed doors? I'd rather not marry then to do so behind closed doors
Venatius David Musa, Nigeria
There are three most important days in the life of a man that the whole world needs to know: the day a man is born, the day he gets married and the day he dies. Why should one then marry behind closed doors? I'd rather not marry then to do so behind closed doors. What makes a marriage legitimate is when it is done in the public for the whole world to see.
Venatius David Musa, Bauchi State, Nigeria

Marriage is a special gift which is supposed to be embraced by everyone in the eyes of God. So it shouldn't be a secret at all. However different cultures and traditions lead to secret marriages. If my relatives can't accept my kind of choice and if I really believe that she is the love of my life then I'd go for a secret marriage. However secret marriages are an indication of disapproval from family members and may not be good idea.
Chilembo Musenga, Kitwe, Zambia

If I marry secretly, the marriage will never succeed because the traditional marriage rites were not performed
Aaron Anye, Southern Cameroonian
In the North West part of Cameroon we don't welcome secret marriages. Firstly, the two families of both parties must be involved to support the marriage. Secondly, if both families don't compromise in terms of what we call "knock door" (ask for one's hand in marriage), then the marriage in under no circumstances should take place. If I marry secretly, the marriage will never succeed because the traditional marriage rites were not performed. Besides, if there are any problems, my family will not come to my rescue because they didn't approve the marriage.
Aaron Anye, Southern Cameroonian in Johannesburg

I will marry her secretly as she is my only happiness
Onyebuchi Okeke, Nigeria
I have a girl I love so much that I want to marry but according to my people she is an outcaste. I don't believe in that tradition but since my parents won't support me, I will marry her secretly as she is my only happiness.
Onyebuchi Okeke, Nigeria

I think secret marriage is not ideal, but I can understand why a lot of people enter into it in parts of Africa. There are may be financial, or education problems, or the couple may be too young and be afraid to come forward for that reason.
Ahmed Nuur, Basso, Somalia

I was in secret marriage before. I did it all because of my parents, they never wanted me to marry the girl I wanted. According to them she was not the right person for me. So I left Monrovia with the pretext of going to Cote d'Ivoire for business, and we got married there. I later realised that secret marriages can't work. Things did not go well between us and we broke up.
Nasser Sheriff, Monrovia, Liberia

A marriage is about the husband and wife, no one else
Leigh Williams, Toronto, Canada
Me and my boyfriend are planning a secret wedding. Not a single person knows it is going to happen, and they will not be told until afterwards. With some family situations this is the only way to have the special day you want. A marriage is about the husband and wife, no one else.
Leigh Williams, Toronto, Canada

I was divorced with two sons when I decided to get married to a good friend who was about 20 years older than me. He was my father's friend and our GP. I am Muslim and got married in a mosque. We never lived together he used to take me and my boys out once a week on a regular basic and pay my maintenance in accordance to Islamic law. Our marriage lasted for eight years and then I met someone younger than me and got married to him. My eight year marriage is still secret. It is exciting to keep marriage a secret, but I believe in religion one should always get married to have a relationship.
Mina Hussain Khan am, London, UK

I don't think marriage should be kept a secret because everyone should know that you are married. It is a demonstration of love between the two of you.
Bertha Sankowa, Lusaka, Zambia

Marriage was ordained by God, hence it must be enjoyed and everyone must know that you are married
Clifford Zulu, Lusaka, Zambia
Marriage should be considered as a lifetime relationship. Entering into a secret marriage brings dispute amongst most African families. More if the secret marriage produces a child not known by the relatives. Marriage was ordained by God, hence it must be enjoyed and everyone must know that you are married.
Clifford Zulu, Lusaka, Zambia

I think that some people enter into a secret marriage because they cannot afford official marriage expenses. Therefore, those people would go for a secret or modest marriage rather than an official and costly one. But, in one way or the other, it is the celebration of "true love."
Ibrahima Dioubate, Arlington, USA

People should be allowed to make their choices because when things start to go wrong, they will point the accusing fingers at others for dragging them into trouble. Many parents still believe they have to choose spouses for their offspring.
Julius Atia, Yaounde, Cameroon

It is abominable to have to have secret marriages in Africa .All marriages must be blessed by parents and society at large.
Chibwinja Francis, Zambia

Secret marriages are an indication that the marriage may not be a good idea
Victor Obi, Minnesota. U.S.A.
I would have to say anything kept a secret always has a question mark to it. Secret marriages are also an indication that the marriage may not be a good idea. I think they are not very healthy in my opinion.
Victor Obi, Minnesota, U.S.A.

People fear that they will be excommunicated from their society. It is important to be happy so look for people who can support you.
Panther Duot, Kalamazoo, USA

I wish I knew why young couples in Egypt are keeping their marriages a secret. My guess is that this could be happening more in the highly mixed urban centres of Egypt where it is easier to remain anonymous.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian, Germany

There should be no secrecy around marriage. After all marriage is about life long happiness. In my country, some people go into secret marriages when they want to hide from someone they might have disappointed.
Peter Pablo Bainda, Freetown, Sierra Leone

We are planning a secret marriage since homosexual love is forbidden in our Ghanaian society
Kwaku, Vienna, Austria
I fell in love with a guy during my secondary school; we still love each other so much. It's been 13 years since we both left school. We thought our relationship would have ended there but to our surprise it hasn't. He is married, but his marriage will end in divorce this summer. We both live in Europe and might want to get married, but the odds are against us. Homosexual love is forbidden in our Ghanaian society. We are planning a secret marriage in August, since we will be sharing the same house soon. To our friends and families, we will be just good old friends but in reality we are married.
Kwaku, Vienna, Austria

Nothing will make me enter a secret marriage. All you need in the face of any obstacle is a firm conviction about the decision you want to take. You will certainly find at least one person who would support you.
Olaoluwa Nelson, Lagos Nigeria

The Matrimonial Causes Act applicable in all the states of Nigeria, as amended in the various states, prohibits bigamy. In reality, about 50% of all Nigerians married under the Act have at least an extra wife. The other wives are either married under Native Laws and Custom or under Islamic Customary Laws. Thus while the other wives are concubines and secret wives under the Act, they are wives openly paraded as such under the Islamic and or Native Customary laws. Guess what? No Nigerian has ever been prosecuted for bigamy.
Anthony Okosun, Baltimore, USA.

Secret marriage is also a demonstration of love between two people before it is known in public. This kind of marriage exists in any society. However people fear to make it known to other people, because they are not certain whether it would lead to a real one or not. I think that is the first reason why people are sometimes getting married secretly.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

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