In many Arab countries, marriage brings great respect to those getting married. In those countries, such as in Algeria, marriage is considered a sign of maturity. According to Islam, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent. However, one's parents have as much of a say, as the children do, in who their children marry.
During the engagement, parents buy gold, clothes, kitchen and household needs for the woman and wool to make mattresses for the man. These items are called a shoura (shur'-ah). Before the wedding there is a party at the bride's house where all the relatives work to meet the guests' needs.
The man will buy gifts for his bride and her mother as a sign of love and respect for her and her family. After the party, the bride leaves her parents' house in a fancy car followed by other cars, including some which display her shoura. This shows all people how greatly she is loved by her family and husband.
During the marriage, both men and women have distinct roles. Husbands are required to provide financial support and protection. The wife is required to take care of the children and make sure the house is running smoothly.
Though it seems like marriages and marriage life in Algeria goes so smoothly, many of the procedures and laws are disputed.
One of the issues is polygamy. In most North African countries polygamy is allowed and practiced. The rate at which it practiced greatly varies between the countries. In Algeria polygamy is rarely practiced. Only about 2% of Algerian men are married to more than one wife. Even though it so rare, it is a big issue- two out of three women are for the abolition of polygamy.
The issue incest is also a widely discussed issue in Algeria. Algerian society has a preference for marriages between cousins. It is an old tradition that is still followed but which is disliked by 1/3 of Algerian women.
Throughout North Africa, the legal age for marriage is 16 years. However, many girls are married off before the age of 16. This is very common in Algeria- couples have traditional marriages before the age of 16 and when they reach the legal age, they get married in court. Early marriages are a lot more common in rural areas than in urban areas.
Divorce is quite common in North Africa. Generally men have more rights in initiating a divorce, but women have informal ways of getting out of an unhappy marriage. In Algeria, everything, except the bride price, owned by a couple belongs to the husband. Not only does all the couple's property go to the husband, the custody of the children is also given to the husband. So in the case of a divorce, the woman would walk away with only the bride price, leaving everything behind with her ex-husband.
Some of these facts show how there are two faces to Algerian marriage life. Even though to some people it may seem perfect, when looking more deeply into it, one may discover that there are some inequalities between women and men.