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What are Marital Rights?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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Marital rights is a term that refers to the entitlements of a husband and of a wife. In Christian-based marriages, a husband has the right to have sex with his wife and to act as head of the household. A wife also has marital rights although they have not been discussed in as much detail. The term marital rights is generally used to address entitlements husband and wife have over one another, such as their authority over one another's body.

Marriage is often referred to as a contract. If historical examples are studied, it may become apparent how similar marriage was to a business arrangement. In many present day cultures, this similarity still exists. Throughout history, the union of a man and woman has often been surrounded by material exchanges and the negotiation of entitlements of the parties.

Once a man marries a woman, he is generally entitled to a minimum of two things. The first of his marital rights entitles him to have sex with his wife. The frequency and the timing can be subject to dispute. The need for procreation is believed to be the original reasoning for granting this entitlement to men.

In some instances, men's exercise of this right has led to marital rape. Marital rape is now widely condemned, and it is a crime in some countries. In other countries, there still are no charges to be brought for what is known as marital rape.

The second of a man's marital rights is the authority to control the affairs of his household. This right is believed to be based on the superior status that the Bible grants to men. It is further believed that such an arrangement was needed to ensure cooperation. In many societies, life is structured so that power struggles could be chaotic and problematic. They could lead to serious problems, such as the starvation of a tribe.

Though the concept of having marital rights still exists in many Christian cultures, it generally doesn't play as prominent of a role as in times past. This may or may not be the case in other societies adhering to an Abrahamic religion.

Marital rights in Islamic belief, for example, are similar to marital rights in Christian belief. Islamic marriages also grant men the rights to have sex with their wives and to be leaders of their families. Just like in Christianity, husband and wife in Islam are forbidden from having sexual relations outside of matrimony.

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Discussion Comments
By anon989768 — On Mar 21, 2015

The wife also has marital rights as mentioned in Exodus 19:10 "If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights." There may be other instances it is mentioned but here it is clear and a command of God given to Moses for all the people. I believe it is referring to sexual relations.

By anon338156 — On Jun 11, 2013

One U.S. citizen accompanied another U.S. citizen to Bangladesh and married a girl in Bangladesh who is a Bangladeshi citizen. He registered the marriage with Bangladeshi law there and the accompanied person was a witness on his behalf during the marriage registration.

He came back to the USA after about three months, telling the girl that he would apply to have the girl come to the USA. But after he got back to the USA, he is saying he won't do this and threatening the girl not to communicate with him. He is not fulfilling the marriage contract. What is the solution to this problem?

By anon236609 — On Dec 24, 2011

Personally I think a lot of marriages would be better if men felt the responsibility to attend to the wife's pleasure.

By anon94083 — On Jul 07, 2010

Well, obviously a married woman should not be allowed to have sex or anything the like with another man. What is this world coming to? Somehow this adulterous practice has become commonplace. Often depicted in our pop culture as normal. How many shows have you seen where a woman cheats on her husband? Vice versa? Perhaps someone could share their story of a marriage that hasn't failed because you and your spouse are entirely faithful to each other.

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