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Marriage as a basic social institution has many different meanings and implications for women and men, depending on their location. The aspects of human life shaped by marriage range from legal and economic responsibilities to childbearing. Research shows that the Western model of marriage is not helpful in enabling understanding of marriage-like relationships in non-Western societies. This article starts by discussing eight key elements of the Western marriage, which have widely been assumed to be present when any two individuals or two families come together in a new relationship. It questions the nature of marriage in the context of Namu atoll, Marshall Islands, in the Pacific, and considers the degree to which this reality ‘fits’ with Western ideas. Such rethinking is critical in research, planning and implementation of development and social policy initiatives.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

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