|Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.|
Paragraph 2 of Article 16 establishes the requirement that "Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." The purpose of this basic principle is to ensure that marriage is entered into completely voluntarily and to prevent marriages contracted under duress or threat. The word "free" is actually the key phrase in this paragraph, since a person can conceivably be forced to give his full, but not his free, consent. Consequently, the use of the word "free" is intended to eliminate any compulsion by the parents, by the other spouse, by the authorities, or anyone else.
The question of dissolution and consent played a role in the Saudi Arabian abstention. Upon the insistence of the women's lobby, the protection of the family and of children was made a separate issue.1
1. Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent (1999) 333.
Adapted from Maja Kirilova Eriksson in Asbjorn Eide et al, Eds., The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Commentary (1992) 243-245.