New marriage laws proposed for South Africa

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The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) called for comment on a work document which aims to introduce a single marriage statute for South Africa.

As part of this process, the working document proposes the introduction of two alternative bills:

  • The Protected Relationships Bill; and
  • The Bill on the Recognition and Registration of Marriages and Life Partnerships.

“Unified requirements for all protected relationships, marriages, and life partnerships are proposed in Option One, the Protected Relationships Bill, and in Option two, the Recognition and Life Partnerships Bill. ‘registration of marriages and life partnerships,’ said the SALRC.

“The bills are (further) intended to provide for the recognition of protected relationships or lifelong marriages and partnerships, entered into by the parties regardless of the religious, cultural or other beliefs of the parties, or of the manner in which the relationship has been established. concluded. . “

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Other issues covered by bills include:

  • The capacity and age of the parties;
  • The role of marriage officers;
  • Polygamous Marriage Regulations;
  • Instances where a relationship is not officially celebrated.

Unique marriage policy

In October 2020, the Home Office confirmed plans to introduce a new draft marriage policy in South Africa, but said the process had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry said the policy was initially to be published in the Official Gazette for public comment in the 2020/21 fiscal year, after which it will be submitted to cabinet for approval by March 31, 2021.

The legislation that currently regulates marriage in South Africa was developed without a comprehensive policy grounded in constitutional values ​​and an understanding of modern social dynamics.

This has led to the recognition of different wedding rituals without any harmonization, he said.

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“Despite all the changes that were made to marriage law after 1994, there are still serious gaps in the current law. For example, current legislation does not regulate certain religious marriages such as Hindu, Muslim, and other customary marriages which are performed in some African or royal families.

“Given the diversity of South Africa’s population, it is virtually impossible to pass legislation governing every religious or cultural practice of marriage. It is in this context that the DHA is embarking on the process of developing a marriage policy which will lay a political basis for the drafting of a new single or omnibus legislation.

Some of the key changes that will be introduced in the new policy include:

  • The new marriage law will allow South Africans of different sexual orientations, religious and cultural beliefs to enter into legal marriages;
  • The introduction of strict rules regarding the age of marriage (including the alignment of the age of majority in marriage legislation with the Children’s Act);
  • It will align marriage, matrimonial property and divorce law to address issues of matrimonial property and intestate succession in the event of marriage dissolution;
  • It will allow for fair treatment and respect for religious and customary beliefs in accordance with article 15 of the Constitution.
  • It will deal with the celebration and registration of marriages involving foreign nationals;
  • It will deal with the celebration and registration of customary marriages involving non-nationals, in particular cross-border communities or citizens of our neighboring countries.
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