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June 27, 2004 

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Your Advocate

This week your advocate is M. Moazzam Husain of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. His professional interests include civil law, criminal law and constitutional law

Q: I am a 25-year-old Bangladeshi citizen by birth. I am in love with a foreigner and we are planning to marry here in Bangladesh soon. The problem is, my fiancé do not have a work permit for Bangladesh. He is currently living in Japan. Few days ago I heard that a foreigner must have a work permit to legally marry in Bangladesh. Is it true? If we get married in Bangladesh, will our marriage be recognized by the existing marriage laws of our land? Please advice. I have been asking a lot of people and each time I get confusing reply.
S. Hossain Dhaka

Your Advocate: I am sorry to know that you have had lot of run-around on your problem before you could decide to take recourse to a lawyer for an opinion. In our society people in general, are in the habit of prescribing medicine to patients without asking them to go to doctors. The case is also nearly same with the legal problems. If you could approach a lawyer instead of wasting time on asking stray questions to the people around, you would have got a legal opinion much earlier. Of course, lawyers' opinions may differ. That is altogether different and a matter to be resolved among experts.

Your query goes short of adequate information so as to facilitate an opinion to be given by a lawyer. Lawyers will require you to answer some basic questions before passing any comments about your marriage. In addition to ones you have given the most relevant and primary information that would be necessary for the purpose are: your religion, if you at all profess any; religion of your fiancé, if any; marital status of you both i.e., whether you and your fiancé are bachelors, earlier married etc.; whether you are a public servant? Moreover the term "foreigner" by itself does not suggest now-a-days that he or she is not a person of Bangladeshi origin. Therefore, the question of interrelationship, if any, between the parties comes in. Of course, your style of _expression and diction suggest that your fiancé is an unmixed foreigner. Answers to these questions may divert the attention of the lawyer to multiple legal dimensions in search of solutions.

Be that as it may, for a reply to your question I take you to be a Muslim woman as your Arabic name suggests and also assume your fiancé to be a Muslim. From your silence in respect of other aspects and exclusive emphasis on supposed 'work-permit-impediment' I can presume that there is no legal barrier for a valid marriage between you as per Muslim law.

I am coming to the question of work-permit in the later part of the reply. If it is only a work-permit issue, and there is no other impediment, I assure you, it cannot stand on your way to marry your foreign fiancé. Before that I feel like making you aware of the basic law rather gratuitously in respect of the marriage of a Muslim woman with the hope that those may be of use in case your problem travels beyond the mere work-permit issue.

As per Muslim personal law, a Mohammedan woman cannot contract a valid marriage except with a Mohammedan. She cannot contract a valid marriage even with a Kitabi, that is, Christian or a Jew. A marriage, however, with a Kitabi, that is, a Christian or a Jew is irregular not void but there are controversies in respect of whether marriage with a non-Kitabi, that is, an idolater or fire-worshipper is void or irregular. Overwhelming view weighs in favour of calling it irregular. There are different incidents and legal consequences of irregular and void marriage which, I think, are not relevant here, that too, cannot be dealt with in this short span.

Back to your basic concern. In Bangladesh there is no law which imposes work-permit as a precondition for marriage with a foreigner. Work permit is something related to visa, staying in particular country, citizenship etc. In our country marriage is substantially regulated by our personal laws, that is, for Muslims by the Muslim law and for Hindus by Hindu law and so on. And if the proposed marriage between the parties is otherwise valid under the personal law there is nothing to prevent it. The only legal bar that is created is in respect of the public servants. The Public Servant (Marriage with Foreign Nationals) Ordinance,1976 has put complete bar on the members of our diplomatic service in marrying foreign nationals and provided similar restriction on members of other public services with a relaxation that they can contract such marriage subject to prior permission to be given by the President.

Corresponding Law Desk
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