France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

June 2, 2008

Secrets and Codes

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 2:43 pm

A few years back I was helping a friend move into a new flat in Paris when I noticed that between her kitchen and her WC, which were right next to each other, there were two doors, also right next to each other. “You know why that is?” I said smart-assedly. “Napoleonic Code!” I’d read that within this all-encompassing rule book there’s one that says there has to be two doors between the bathroom and the kitchen and…voila!

The same code was cited by the tribunal de grande instance in Lille last week in granting the request of a man to have his marriage annulled because his betrothed had lied about being a virgin. In this case, article 180 stipulates that, as the legal journal the Recueil Dalloz noted (and Sudouest reported), “in the case of an error in the person, or on the essential qualities of the person, the other spouse can request the annulment of the marriage within a period of five years.” In other words, said a spokesman for the ministry of justice in defending the decision, the judgement was not about morals but about lying. The marriage wasn’t annulled because the lady isn’t a virgin, but because she lied about it.

At first glance, this makes sense, but on even two minutes of reflection, the argument falls apart on, well, moral grounds: There’s no equivalency, because the man could lie about his virginity and get away with it.

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