Changes to Marriage Laws

In order to realign South African marriage laws to the Constitutional doctrines of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity, the Department of Home Affairs has announced that it intends drafting and submitting new marriage laws for Cabinet’s approval by 31 March 2023.

Presently, there are three different pieces of legislation that govern marriages or civil unions in South Africa, namely the Marriage Act, the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, and the Civil Union Act. The Department of Home Affairs intends to amalgamate these three pieces of legislation into a single Act, whilst concurrently addressing lacunae in the marriage laws.

The new amalgamated Marriage Act will give rise to a number of changes, including:

  • All South Africans will be enabled to conclude legal marriages, regardless of sexual orientation, religion or culture;
  • The age of majority will be aligned to the Children’s Act;
  • Marriage laws, matrimonial property laws and divorce laws will be aligned;
  • In accordance with Section 15 of the Constitution, religious and customary beliefs will be accorded with equitable treatment and respect;
  • Solemnisation and registration of marriages that involve foreign nationals will be addressed; and
  • Solemnisation and registration of customary marriages, involving non-citizens, will be addressed.

Although we may only experience such changes in the next year, it remains an interesting development in South African law.

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