Most often, relationship is expected to end in marriage not in ‘tears.’ Christians and Muslim maintain that, marriage is an institution of God. And that, whatever God has joined, no man should put asunder. Tons of promises goes into relationship before it’s finally concluded into marriage. These promises either turn out be fulfilled or not.
I promise to help you progress in life; I promise to love you forever and ever; I promise I would do anything for you even if I am to fetch water from the moon for you; I promise not to hurt your beautiful heart; I promise to make you reach orgasm; I promise not to cheat on you; I promise to make you the gatekeeper of my heart; and other oceans of promises that are meant to secure the other partner or to make the relationship grow.
It is only reasonable to say that, these promises are necessary for the germination of the relationship. Even though you’d raise the argument of genuity and intention with regard to these promises, you’d also affirm that, some of them are fulfilled. In that, whether or not a relationship would blossom and gradually enter the final stage depends on each partner’s contribution in abiding or performing the promises made. Other factors are germane in a relationship alright, but you cannot thwart the importance of promises in a relationship.
It cannot be left unsaid that, some relationship are perambulation on Safari desert, trying to find a stream. We must not forget that, the cornerstone of every relationship is amor (Spanish word for love). Without the very love as foundation nothing can exist. Joe Manganiello put it that, “When you find that one that’s right for you, you feel like they were put there for you, you never want to be apart.”
Now, when it comes to the case of promise to marry, there exist 50-50 probability. In Africa, it is men who promise to marry the women. Because marriage is held in high esteem in our society, it is deemed that, women are fully complete when a man, through customary means, causes the removal of woman from her father’s house. This is what the animated onlookers in the society cherish most. Nonetheless, a promise from a man, to marry a woman might not be fulfilled. The man may later change his mind in the course of courtship or in the relationship. A man can promise his girlfriend of 5years, 10years or even more that, “I would take you to the alter” but later abandon the lady for whatever reason. It happens that, some ladies suffer with the man before he finally becomes successful. Operah Winfrey states that, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo. But you want someone who’ll help you catch the bus.” It sometimes happens that, after catching the bus with the man, he later leaves the woman, and rides in limo with a different woman.
So then, what can you do, when someone promises to marry you and never does that?
In law, if someone fails to honour his or her promise, it’s called “Breach of Promise.” The promise would actually become enforceable only if it complies with the elements of contract. That means that, there must be offer and acceptance and consideration. Thus, if these elements are present in a pact, the law can hold the other party responsible if he or she fails to honour his or her promise.
Breach of promise to marry is when after a mutual agreement or one partner proposing to marry the other backs out of the promise. That means, after the other partner has accepted the proposal, the offeror(the one who proposed) fails to carry out the promise. This incident gives a cause of action which can be pursued by the affected party.
It is important to note that, every jurisdiction has different views or Act regulating the breach of promise of marriage.
In 1969, the English Law Commission, came out with a report dubbed ‘Breach Of Promise of Marriage,’ which was to deal, inter alia, with these issues. In 1970, it was given legislative effect. It became the Law Reform (Miscelleneous Provisions) Act 1970. Section 1(1) of the Act maintains that, “An agreement between two persons to marry one another shall not under the law of England and Wales have effect as a contract giving rise to legal rights and no action shall be brought in England and Wales for breach of such an agreement, whatever the law applicable to such an agreement.” Which means in England and Wales, one do not have a cause of action if there is a breach of promise to marry. Section 3 of the same Act, makes gifts of property returnable if it was agreed between the parties that, the gifts would be recoverable after termination of the agreement. However, Before the making of the Law Reform (Miscelleneous Provisions) Act 1970, the position in England can be seen in the case of Frost v. Knight (1872) L.R 5 Ex. 322; 26 L.T. 77. In that case, the respondent promised the plaintiff that, he would take her to the alter after the demise of her father. However, along the line, while the plaintiff’s father was still alive, the respondent backed off from the engagement to the plaintiff. The plaintiff without wasting time, sued the respondent for breach of promise of marriage. The court found in favor of the plaintiff, accepting the plaintiff’s contention that, indeed there is a breach of promise to marry.
It is thereby important to note that, the common law courts would only award damages but the courts cannot compel the party at fault to undertake specific performance.
The Cadego Civil for Spain, in Article 43 makes promise to marry not legally binding or engagement legally binding if the other party fails to honour his promise. Nevertheless, Article 44 states that, a promise to marry which is done in writing and where the banns have been made known to the public, the party that terminates the agreement without reasonable reason would be compelled to compensate the innocent party.
France maintain the position of England and Wales in Article 180 of the Civil Code , that, an agreement to marry is not binding on the promisor. Italy also follow the same principle in Article 79 of the Civil Code. However, Article 81 makes the agreement binding if it was “made by public act or private writing” and that, the promisor would be liable if his reason of withdrawing from the marriage is not justified. Article 80 of the Civil Code makes gifts exchanged to be returnable. Germany avers that, an engaged person who backs out of the engagement must compensate the affected partner in the engagement and his her parents for the losses incurred in view of the celebration of the marriage. Therefore whatever one spent in good faith towards the marriage must be paid by the other partner to the innocent party. Exchanged gifts are returnable.
So what is Ghana’s position on this issue?
Whether or not you have a cause of action depends on the fact of the case. There must be a satisfactory evidence to prove that, indeed there exist contract between the two parties and that there were witnesses who festooned the exchange of promises. I am coming to present three Ghanaian cases to establish the position of the Courts in Ghana regarding this particular issue. The courts in Ghana have different views and this depends on the fact of the case.
In case of Djarbeng v. Tagoe [1989-90] 1 GLR 155, the respondent travelled to UK to further his education. But before he departed, he was having blissful relationship with the plaintiff of which a child was born to them. When the respondent returned, he failed to marry the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued him for damages for breach of promise to marry her. Under customary law, there wasn’t any evidence to support the plaintiff’s contention, but evidence was adduced by a letter written by the respondent to the plaintiff, promising to marry her. The court in their judgment, contended that, a mere proclamation by the respondent to marry the plaintiff is not a binding contract. The courts further contended that there was nothing to indicate that promise, because the respondent was not there himself and there was nothing to symbolize such promise. The court emphatically stated that, such statement are not enforceable in the court of law. In addition, the court stated that, people make a lot of promises to sustain relationship or to attract the other party, in that, such statements are fantasies. Whether promise to marry under the customary law constitute a binding contract - the court held that, under various customary laws in Ghana, the consent of the families plays a key role in marriage. The customary practices must be done accordingly between the two families, before they can live as a husband and wife.
In the case of Afrifa v. Class-Peter 1 GLR 359, the appellant presented bible, ring and gifts of money together with drinks to the family of the respondent. Class-Peter moved and settled with the appellant. Between 1969 and 1972, the respondent fixed several dates for the wedding, but each was postponed by himself setting up excuses. The respondent caught him having an affair with a certain woman. She sued for breach of promise of marriage and she was awarded with 2,000.00 old Ghana Cedis. Afrifa appealed at the Court of Appeal against the judgment contending that, he and the respondent are already married. The court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, stating that, Under Ga customary law, the mere presentation of bible and ring do not constitute marriage unless the customary practices governing marriage have been performed. Therefore, “A man seeking to marry a woman from a different ethnic group should ascertain the formalities requisite for validating his marriage. A failed to do this and even by Ga customary law he was in breach of his obligation to marry.”
Furthermore, In the case of Mintah v. Ampenyin GHASC as usual, the man(respondent) promised to marry the lady(appellant) but the relationship later hit the rocks. The appellant instituted an action against the respondent in the High Court seeking for, inter alia, damages of a breach of promise to marry. The respondent counterclaimed for recovery of his house. The High Court found in favor of the respondent and dismissed the appellant’s claims. On appeal, the decision was reversed, on the grounds that, the respondent promised to marry the appellant but did not honor his promise. The Court of Appeal granted Ghc6,000.00 to the appellant as general damages. The appellant was still not satisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal. She therefore appealed in the Supreme Court.
In summing up, the court would award damages but the courts cannot compel the party at fault to undertake specific performance. In Ibrahim v. Amalibini GLR 368, court made it clear that “they cannot force unwilling spouse to go back to her husband as it’s against the spirit of the Constitution.” Relationship these has become a cauldron of disappointment and failure. Therefore do not make unwarranted sacrifices in the hope that, the sacrifice would compel your partner to marry you. Therefore both parties must make their intentions clear and define the relationship ipso facto.
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