New marriage laws for South Africa take the next big step

 ·10 Apr 2024

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has opened the Marriage Bill 2023 for public comment.

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni previously said that the Bill empowers the Department of Home Affairs to develop a single Marriage Act for the country. 

“The Bill seeks to ensure that all marriages are concluded in accordance with the principles of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity as provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996,” said Ntshavheni

Currently, marriages in South Africa are regulated through three different laws:

  • The Marriage Act – for the monogamous marriage of opposite-sex couples.
  • The Recognition of Customary Marriages – for polygamous marriages of opposite-sex couples.
  • The Civil Union Act – for monogamous partnerships for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

In 2021, the Department of Home Affairs embarked on a process to create an “umbrella” marriage policy, presenting the country with a single legislation.

Following a White Paper and the Draft Marriage Bill of 2022, the Department tabled the Marriage Bill 2023 in parliament in December 2023.

Essentially, the new Bill will bring all marriage legislation under one roof.

The Bill also states that it seeks to:

  • Provide for the recognition of marriages;

  • Provide for the requirements for monogamous and polygamous marriages;

  • Provide for designation of marriage officers;

  • Provide for solemnization and registration of marriages;

  • Provide for proprietary consequences and the dissolution of marriages;

  • Provide for offences and penalties and to provide for matters incidental thereto.

The Bill, however, still has to take several steps before coming into law, with approval needed from the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and the President.

Although parliament and President Cyril Ramaphosa are pushing through multiple laws ahead of the 29 May election, it is unlikely that the new Marriage Bill 2023 will reach the deadline.

Public comments can be emailed to [email protected] by no later than Friday, 17 May 2024 at 16:00.

The Bill can be found below (mobile users can click here):

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