Did you know that having a marriage certificate does not guarantee or make your marriage valid? Many people have gone through the process of getting married but still don’t know if their marriage is valid or not. A marriage which is void or invalid is one in which the parties have been through a ceremony of marriage, but they have never acquired the status of husband and wife due to the presence of some impediment. Yes, this is possible especially in the case where the marriage does not go through the right formalities. Thus, an invalid or void marriage is one which might have been celebrated by the parties but does not fulfill the conditions of marriage.

The non-fulfillment of the formalities as well as lack of capacity as provided for under the 1981 Civil Status registration Ordinance will render such marriage void or invalid.

Void simply means not valid or not legally binding.

Marriage is a cultural or legally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes the rights and obligations between them as well as between them and their children.

What makes a marriage Void?

The circumstances under which a marriage will be considered void include:

(Sec 52(1) of C.S.R.O)

In the case where the marriage is celebrated between parties below the required age, the marriage will be considered null and void. In Cameroon, the required age for a girl to be married is 15years and for a boy is 18years. If by any chance a boy and a girl below 18 and 15 years respectively get married, it will be invalid. The only case under which this marriage will be valid is if a Presidential waiver is obtained as provided by the law. Hence, a valid marriage is one in which the parties are above 18years for the boy and 15years for the girl.

(Sec 52(3) of the C.S.R.O. 1981)

Unlike in the United States of America and other countries around the world, the sex of the parties is an important formality for the validity of a marriage. This simply means the law in Cameroon does not accept same sex marriages that is, man marries man or a woman marries a woman. It doesn’t matter if one of the parties was a man at birth and later changed their sex to that of a woman. As it was held in the case of Corbett V. Corbett that a person’s biological sex is fixed at birth and cannot subsequently be changed by artificial means. Another land mark case here is that of Talbot V. Talbot (Supra). In the case of sex, a valid marriage is one which is made up of parties of the opposite sex.

(Sec 58(c) and (d) of the C.S.R.O)

Bigamy is the act of marrying someone while being legally married to another. That is, a monogamous married woman or man who marries another man or woman without dissolving the first marriage shall be considered to have committed bigamy. In such a case, the second marriage will be considered null and void as per the law. Any contravention of this provision shall render the marriage null and void, as expressly stated in section 63 of the C.S.R.O.

( Sec 58(b) of the C.S.R.O)

In this regard the Marriage Act 1949, First Schedule, as amended by the Marriage Enabling Act 1960 and the Children Act 1075 clearly states the prohibited degrees of relationship. This simply means that a marriage conducted between a brother and a sister or between family relatives will be considered null and void before the law. Section 58(b) of the C.S.R.O. is relevant in the sense that a customary authority can object in case of customary incest and if well founded, such a marriage shall be declared null and void if it had been celebrated. See section 57(1) and (2) of the 1981 Civil Status Registration Ordinance.

(Sec 65(2) of the C.S.R.O)

The lack of consent on the part of one of the spouse will render the marriage void. As we have already seen concerning capacity to marry, consent shall be freely given and will be considered not to exist if obtained by force. Section 65(2) specifically states that force shall be deemed to have been used where brutality or threats have been exerted on the person of the spouse-to-be, his father, mother, legal guardian, customary head or his children in order to obtain the consent or refusal of a spouse.


The failure to publish bans as required by the law or to obtain a waiver will render the marriage void. The case of Lawrence Francis Biaka V. Benedicta Ngu Biaka goes to illustrate this point. In this case, a marriage certificate had been issued to the parties on the 3rd of December 1979, barely four days after the petitioner had obtained a decree absolute to a marriage he had contracted with one Josephine Damniloff at the Kensington country Marriage Registry in London. It was clear and obvious that no bans had been published with regards to the second marriage in conformity to the then applicable 1968 C.S.R.O. The court held that the marriage was void. The non-fulfilment of other formalities such as the presence of the parties (excluding cases of presidential waiver) and others will clearly render the marriage void under Cameroon Laws. NB. “ The content on this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic in question. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstance.”

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