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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico | July 2006 

Mexico Abandons Vows Seen as Sexist
email this pageprint this pageemail usKara Andrade - Associated Press

Fernando Ramirez, 39 and Ana Bel Martinez, 26, get married at a civil court in Mexico City, Mexico on July 13, 2006. More and more Mexicans are giving up on a time-honored set of marriage vows penned in the 19th century which portrayed women as delicate, weak and even potentially annoying and judges across Mexico are switching to versions that stress equality and mutual support, reflecting the growing power of women in a country still struggling with macho attitudes. (AP/Kara Andrade)
For 147 years, marriage vows in Mexico portrayed women as delicate, weak and potentially annoying. These days, judges across Mexico are switching to versions that stress equality and mutual support, reflecting the growing power of women in a country still struggling with macho attitudes.

"As a father, I wouldn't want a judge to tell to my daughter that she was the weakest part of a human being and that she is subject to her husband's rule," said Salvador Mendoza, a civil court judge in Mexico City who stopped reading the old vows in 2001.

The old vows, a 537-word ode to marriage, were considered open-minded and ahead of their time when they were penned 147 years ago by Melchor Ocampo, a Mexican lawyer, scientist and liberal politician. They were meant to replace religious vows at a time when Mexican liberals were stripping away the Roman Catholic Church's control over much of the country's political, social and economic life.

Conservative foes summarily executed Ocampo by firing squad for promoting the separation of church and state, but kept the amended vows in the new civil marriage law. They dictate that a husband should treat his wife with "generous benevolence that the strong should give to the weak" and that a wife should "avoid awakening the most brusque, irritable and hard part of (her husband's) character."

Vianey Lozano, a Mexico City government employee who tied the knot three years ago in Guanajuato, said the language reflects a machismo that Mexico has left behind. "We're not in those times anymore, and my girlfriends see it more as a joke when they hear it," she said.

Teresa Ulloa is president of Defensoras Populares, a women's rights organization that challenged the old vows. "Even though the Mexican constitution says we are equal, the vows put the woman in a very disadvantaged position, where the man can make it her obligation to reproduce, take care of the home," she said.

The vows had already fallen out of favor with many couples before activists in March persuaded the lower house of Mexico's Congress to adopt a resolution urging judges to skip the Ocampo wording. Mendoza said that during his three years as a judge, no couple had asked him to read the old vows.

While some of Mexico's 31 states stick to Ocampo's vows, others, including Guanajuato and Veracruz, have held contests to seek public input in writing modern alternatives.

In the northern state of Nuevo Leon, for example, judges tell the bride and groom that while men and women are "different biologically and psychologically, both possess integrity, dignity, strength and intellectual capacity. And neither should consider themselves superior than the other." Nuevo Leon's vows say that both spouses can work and should share the housework and child-raising.

Outside Mendoza's courtroom, the couples seemed preoccupied with their own impending nuptials, rather than the language of vows.

Adrian Rubio, 29, and Maria Lozano, 28, laughed when shown the old vows, which they had never even heard of. "My parents may have used it, but we wouldn't. Things have changed so much, and I don't see her role that way," Rubio said. Lozano and Rubio said they planned to write their own vows for their second, religious ceremony in December.

Fernando Ramirez, 39, said he wanted a union based on equality. "I can't imagine having this read to us," Ramirez said.

In a 20-minute ceremony wedding him to 26-year-old Anabel Martinez, Mendoza spoke of the "importance of a marriage where the couple walks next to each other, always equal, and remembering that in Mexico there is no difference by gender and that women and men have the same rights, obligations and opportunities."

The days were gone when housekeeping was solely a woman's responsibility, he said, and provoked laughter in the packed room by adding: "So make him wash the dishes."

Excerpts from the marriage vows that Mexicans increasingly are skipping:

The man, whose main endowments are valor and strength, should give and will give to the woman, protection, nourishment and direction, always treating her like the most delicate, sensitive, and finest part of himself, with the magnanimity and generous benevolence that the strong should give to the weak, especially when the weak one delivers herself up to him, and when society itself has confided her to his care.

The woman, whose main endowments are abnegation, beauty, compassion, perspicacity and tenderness, should give to her husband obedience; please him, assist him, advise and console him, always treating him with the veneration that should be given to the person who supports and defends one. That should be done with a delicacy to avoid awakening the most brusque, irritable and hard part of his character.

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