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The Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, on Friday 30 August 2019 scheduled a dialogue on the development of a new marriage policy for South Africa. The opening dialogue will be held under the theme: “Realisation of equality, human dignity and non-discrimination values in marriage law and practice”.

The purpose of this discussion according to the South African Home Affairs Department is to engage with thought-leaders, gender and human rights activists across various sectors and disciplines on how to mainstream equality, human dignity and non-discrimination principles in marriage legislation and practice.

Friday’s dialogue is a first in a series of consultative engagements to be held with stakeholders in a quest to modernise the nation’s marriage policy. Engagements with stakeholders will help identify key issues to be addressed by the new marriage policy and legislation. Targeted stakeholders are those playing critical roles in the solemnisation, registration and dissolution of marriages. Additionally, engagements with traditional leaders, religious leaders, academia, non-profits and government leaders are scheduled for the next two months.

Currently marriages in South Africa are regulated through three pieces of legislation, namely: Marriage Act 25 of 1961 (for monogamous marriage for opposite-sex couples); Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 (polygamous marriages for opposite-sex couples) and Civil Unions Act 17 of 2006 (monogamous partnerships for both same and opposite-sex couples).

According to the Home Affairs department, the new marriage policy will inform the drafting of a single marriage Act which will replace the existing Acts. A new single marriage Act 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.

The Civil Union Act currently allows Home Affairs officials to opt-out of marrying same-sex couples on the basis of their personal beliefs. Last year, December 2018, the National Assembly at its last plenary sitting for the year, approved the Civil Union Amendment Bill. This new Bill aims to repeal Section 6 of the principal Act which allows for a marriage officer to object on the grounds of conscience, religion and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex.

We shall be watching this proposed change closely.

photos sourced via Pinterest, Bored Panda, Pexels

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