The International Network of Scholars Researching Unregistered Marriages is a collective of international scholars working on the issue of unofficial (informal, unregistered / religious-only) ‘marriages’ from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and jurisdictions.

Non-state recognised marriages, ‘religious-only’ marriages and informal marriages/relationships (cohabitation) have increasingly become the focus of public policy debates in many countries. While the regulation and registration of marriages have a long history tied up with the emergence of the modern nation-state, during the last decades both state institutions and religious authorities have shown a renewed interest in debates about state recognition, the validity of non state-registered marriages and the effects of non-registration.

An often-simultaneous discourse has also emerged pertaining to the private informal space occupied by couples that choose to bypass registration, and the manner and form of intervention within this private space by other interested parties, including by parents, kin, community and/or religious bodies.

Informal marriages are precipitated by a range of different social, normative and cultural issues, and are very much tied into discourses around sexual freedom and autonomy of the individuals involved. The normativity surrounding the religious marriage ceremony and its perceived authority are often at the heart of the empirical research findings focussed on religious-only marriages. In addition couples may regard themselves and be regarded as married, whether they have gone through a ceremony, or not.

This web-site is intended to provide a focal point for the INSRUM, and will be updated regularly with details about events, publications, calls for papers, and other relevant information.


INSRUM research activities focus on the following overlapping themes in investigating the implications of non-recognition:

  • What makes a marriage in the eyes of states, religious faiths, communities, couples and/or individuals?
  • What kinds of unofficial marriages are problematized? Who are the actors involved, what lines of argumentation do they present, how do they claim authority, and how do particular kinds of marriages become more or less contested through time?
  • Who is entering unofficial (informal, unregistered / religious-only) ‘marriages’ anywhere in the world? What are the motivations of those entering these relationships and to what extent and in what forms are they exercising agency?
  • What are the implications of non-recognition of these relationship norms for individual and group rights?
  • What gender-based concerns arise in relation to these relationships? How are financial rights, child custody, gender positions, well-being and self-realisation affected in light of national and international legal framework.
  • How do these issues resonate with human rights instruments whether domestic, regional, or international (e.g. UDHR, CEDAW, CRC etc) and relevant Sustainable Development Goals.
  • What issues arise in relation to the recognition of transnational unofficial marriages in private international law?
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