How does the Law affect Dating And Relationships In Nigeria
A few months back, the trending lyrics were; “valentine is coming, where is your boyfriend…”. At the time of this writing, valentine has passed and we must admit for most cases, labor room manifestations may have shown up 8 months later.
I admit that falling in love may sometimes seem like some tricky business. The law seems to identify this too. Thus, the law does not give you substantial regulations on when to “shoot your shot”, who to “chyke” as well as the hot strike or toasting lines that you must use on a prospective boo. The major restrictions by Nigerian Law on who you could think of entering into a marriage relationship with are;
- You cannot marry a minor or child that is a person below 18 years1
- You cannot marry a person of the same sex or gender 2
- You cannot marry within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity3. If you and your intended spouse, are within the prohibited degree of affinity you can only lawfully get married after applying to a Judge for permission to do so4. Sounds strange right? I know.
Just to explain further, the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity are actually classes of relationships either by marriage or blood which render it unlawful for two persons to get married. Blood relationships are called consanguinity and marriage relationships are called affinity. By the law, the prohibited degrees of consanguinity include – a blood Sister or brother, Uncles, Aunties, Nephews, and Nieces. So as a man or woman, the law prohibits your getting married to any of the persons on that list (the consanguinity list).
For the affinity list (or the prohibited degrees of affinity) here we go; your mother-in-law, your wife’s grandmother, stepdaughter or son, Step Mom or Dad. Don’t ask why anyone would want to get married to someone on this list.
- You cannot marry a person who is already lawfully married to another person under the Marriage Act. This is called the offense of bigamy. Interestingly, it is important to know that Lagos State has decriminalized bigamy. Hurray? There are still some arguments about this in some law circles.
Before I continue, pls note: in this article, we use bae and boo as conventional slang terms for girlfriend or boyfriend.
In continuation, don’t forget that the law in this realm is rather protective of boo’s interest and so, doing the work of ‘Johnny’ in Yemi Alade’s hit song may just land you a lawsuit. Put differently; don’t follow Cynthia, don’t give Uche belle, and don’t promise Nene marriage when you don’t intend to marry Nene. If you do, Nene can sue you for breach of promise to marry and may get monetary compensation for your toiling with her heart. This is because, under Nigerian law, an agreement to marry is seen as a binding legal contract. It is however important to note that the Court will not force an unwilling party into getting married to a boo that he or she now considers an ex-boo.
Having said the above, here are some specific things to note;
What if I physically abuse my Partner while dating?
It is common to overhear shouts from most couples in a dating relationship. Scratch that. Let us get a bit more specific; in most dating relationships, it is common to hear “You will kill me today” from the lady while the man pounds at her as if he is another heavyweight boxer (it could be the reverse mind you). Note that, being in a relationship does not give you the right to physically abuse your partner.
Doing this may make you guilty of criminal assault and make you enjoy the solitary confines of a jail cell5
In Lagos State, there is also the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law of 2007 that prohibits all forms of domestic violence. Also, an abused partner could maintain or file a civil action and if successful may be given (or awarded) monetary compensation by the Court.
Does My Girlfriend or Boyfriend Legally Owe me Sex?
As a boyfriend, your boo does not legally owe you any duty to satisfy your sexual demands (consortium). This duty is only legally owed by validly married couples to each other. Also, don’t forget that having sex with your girlfriend where she is below 18 is a criminal offense6
Put differently, if by any strange occurrence, your boo is below 18 and you are caught having sexual intercourse (even when it is with her consent) you will be prosecuted for having committed an offense. This is because since boo is less than 18 years, she has not reached ‘the age of consent’. The age of consent in Nigeria is 18 years old. The ‘age of consent’ is the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent (or agree) to participate in sexual activity.
Where boo is above 18 but withholds consent and you forcefully carry out sexual activity with her, it is termed rape and this is also punishable by law. It is also important to say that Men can now also be raped by women under Nigerian Law. This position of the law does not apply throughout Nigeria and you could find out why in this previous article of ours.
Can I sue My darling for gifts and unfulfilled promises?
Strange as it may sound, Boo is not “legally bound” to give you a birthday gift, valentine’s day gift, women’s day money, Friday evening money, hair money, shoe money, etc. As a general rule, whatever your partners gives you or fails to give you cannot be adjudicated upon. This is because the law presupposes that your partner didn’t make the promise or give the gift with the intention of being sued where he/she fails. Whatever material benefit you enjoy is solely at the romantic discretion of your partner. Don’t tell Boo I told you. This doesn’t mean that people dating cannot enter into a valid contract. One exception to this general rule is the promise to get married (or promise of marriage). This is one promise that can lead to a lawsuit if broken. You can equally confirm this through this article of ours.
Under Nigerian law, where adult you have lived with your adult girlfriend as man and wife for a reasonable length of time, there’s the rebuttable presumption of marriage. This means that the law presumes that you’re presumed married until otherwise proven.
Nkobowo Frederick BL
The information above is only provided for general information purposes and does not amount to legal advice or soliciting. Also, No Lawyer-client relationship has been created, and neither can such a relationship be implied. This information is not intended to substitute the services of a lawyer, if you need legal advice, kindly consult a lawyer for your specific needs. For any further information, you could send us a mail via [email protected]
- Sections 21, 22, and 23 of the Childs Rights Act 2003
- Sections 1 and 2 of the Same-Sex (Prohibition) Act 2013
- Citation – Section 3 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1970
- Section 4 of the Matrimonial Causes Act
- Section 252 of the Criminal Code Act, Section 170 of the Criminal Code Law of Lagos State
- Sections 221 and 357 of the Criminal Code Act, Section 31 of the Child’s Right Act 2003
- the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, the Criminal Code Act, the Penal Code