01 September 2019 

The Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi hosted a successful consultation on the development of a new marriage policy for South Africa with the gender and human rights interest groups at the Constitution Hill, in Braamfontein, on Friday, 30 August 2019.

It was the first dialogue in a series of engagements preceding the envisaged policy changes to be made in the marriage legislation. The Department is scheduled to submit the proposed policy changes to Cabinet in March 2021, before the policy is submitted to Parliament to initiate the process of enacting laws which would give effect to the policy.

Engagements with other stakeholders are scheduled as follows:

  • Religious leaders on 26 September 2019
  • Traditional leaders on 4 October 2019
  • CONTRALESA on 17 October 2019
  • Government Departments on 01 November 2019

A colloquium will be convened after the conclusion of the sectoral engagements to process the inputs received and based on the inputs, craft key questions which the policy should answer.

Friday’s meeting was attended by leaders and representatives of Chapter 9 institutions, civil society organisations, development partners, institutions of higher learning and government departments. 

Leaders of Chapter 9 institutions who attended and participated in a panel discussion included the Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), Ms Tamara Mathebula, the Chairperson of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL), Prof David Mosoma, and representative of the South African Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Mohamed Ameermia.

Other participants included The United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Ms Gloria Khoza, SA Law Reform Commissioner Prof Wesahl Domingo, National House of Traditional Leaders’ Nkosikazi NP Ngonyama, Save the Children’s Mr Nyika Machenjedze, Access Chapter 2’s Mapaseka Letsike and social and human rights activist Rumbi Chidoori.

The dialogue explored approaches and key issues on how to mainstream equality, human dignity and non-discrimination in marriage legislation and practice with the view to reconfiguring the nation’s marriage policy. Since 1994, South Africa had not created a harmonized system of marriage but had accorded recognition to different marriage rituals through a range of marriage law amendments.

Minister Motsoaledi said South Africa has three marriage Acts – Marriage Act 25 of 1961 for monogamous marriages between opposite sex couples; Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 for polygamous marriages between opposite sex couples and the Civil Unions Act 17 of 2006 regulating monogamous partnerships for both same and opposite sex couples. 

He said all of these Acts still discriminate against persons because current legislation does not cater for some religious marriages such as the Hindu and the Muslim and certain customary marriages among African communities. 

Minister Motsoaledi called for a new, single marriage Act which will enable South Africans of different sexual orientation, religious and cultural persuasions to conclude legal marriages that will accord with the Constitutional principle of equality. Home Affairs acting Director-General Mr Thulani Mavuso said the dialogues will help in developing a new marriage policy that is inclusive and would embrace equality, human dignity and non-discrimination, and recognize cultural and religious beliefs of various communities in the country.

CGE’s Ms Mathebula said the CGE has received complaints related to customary marriages where wives were not recognized and those relating to arranged marriages of minors with elderly men. CGE committed itself to ensuring that the marriage policy complies with national laws and international treaties. 

CRL’s Prof David Mosoma said that the Commission was concerned largely with rights of communities, and that it is conscious of historical distortions of African history and how African culture is applied in day to day lives.

The SA Human Rights Commission emphasized the need to give relief to the hardship caused by the discrimination in the marriage system.

Many of the representatives and panelists agreed and supported the need for a policy review.