chapter  7
18 Pages

Patriarchal Relations and Marriage

The word ‘patriarchy’ is sometimes used to describe societies in which men play a dominant part and women are subordinate. Patriarchy might be said to imply the rule of the father rather than simply the rule of men and, as we argued in the last chapter, a man cannot know that he is a father without some form of the institution of marriage. Men and women have obviously got together to produce children in all societies, otherwise we would none of us be here but, unlike women, men do not know when, or whether, they have helped to produce children. Marriage is the social institution which creates the link between a man and the children born to his wife or wives. In England, the presumption that a woman’s children are her husband’s has been called the strongest presumption in the law and it could only be rebutted if the husband was, for instance, out of the country at the time of the conception. By an Act passed in 1987, this presumption has now been extended to those children born to a woman after artificial insemination by a donor, provided that the woman’s husband had agreed to the procedure (Family Reform Act 1987, s 27).