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In developed parts of the world, there has been a general trend towards ensuring equal rights within marriage for women and legally recognizing the marriages of interfaith, interracial, and same-sex couples.
These trends coincide with the broader human rights movement.
The definition of marriage varies around the world not only between cultures and between religions, but also throughout the history of any given culture and religion, evolving to both expand and constrict in who and what is encompassed, but typically it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned.
In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.
Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses, as well as between them and any resulting biological or adopted children and affinity (in-laws and other family through marriage).
Marriage can be recognized by a state, an organization, a religious authority, a tribal group, a local community, or peers. When a marriage is performed and carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage laws of the jurisdiction, without religious content, it is a civil marriage.
Civil marriage recognizes and creates the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony before the state.
In other countries, such as Australia, while only civil marriage is recognised, the Marriage Act allows for a civil marriage and religious marriage to be performed simultaneously by a clergyperson of a recognized religion if he or she is also legally recognized as a wedding officiants (though it is illegal to purport to solemnize religious marriages which would have been unlawful under civil law, such as polygamous marriages or child marriages).
Conversely, civil marriage does not exist in some countries governed by a religious legal system, such as Saudi Arabia, where marriages contracted abroad might not be recognized if they were contracted contrary to Saudi interpretations of Islamic religious law.