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When you can expect South Africa’s new marriage laws to be introduced

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The Home Office has released its green paper on weddings for public comment, with the aim of submitting a formal bill to parliament by 2024.

The Green Paper aims to work on the development of a new single marriage bill and will align the country’s matrimonial regime with the constitutional principle of equality.

It includes proposals on unions of people of all sexual orientations, religious and cultural denominations. It also proposes the complete abolition of child marriages in our future matrimonial regime.

“Marriage law that regulates marriages in South Africa is not informed by a comprehensive policy based on the above constitutional provisions. The legislation is a combination of legacy legislation from colonial times and apartheid, and a new law introduced after 1994 to redress historical injustices.

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“Instead of creating a harmonized marriage system in South Africa, the state sought to recognize the different marriage rituals by passing a series of marriage laws,” the department said in the explanatory preface to the document.

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The department added that the purpose of the marriage policy is to establish a political base to regulate the marriages of all people residing in South Africa.

The contemplated marriage status will allow South Africans and residents of all sexual orientations, religious and cultural beliefs to enter into legal marriages which will be in accordance with the principles of equality, non-discrimination, human dignity and unity in society. diversity, as spelled out in the Constitution, he mentioned.

In a roadmap provided with the bill, the ministry said that an official bill should be ready for approval by Parliament by 2024. The bill’s roadmap is as follows:

  • Publication of draft marriage policy for public comment by April 30, 2021;
  • Submit the marriage policy to Cabinet for approval by March 31, 2022;
  • Submit the marriage bill to Cabinet for approval by March 31, 2023;
  • Submit the Marriage Bill to Parliament for approval by March 31, 2024.
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“This is the start of a crucial public discourse that will redefine the concept of marriage in South Africa.

“The process will uncover issues that may make some of us uncomfortable, but will encourage dialogue within South African and international communities.”

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Some of the key changes that are expected to be introduced in the new bill 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 legislation to address issues of matrimonial property and intestate succession in the event of marriage dissolution;
  • It will allow 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 that involve non-nationals, in particular cross-border communities or citizens of our neighboring countries.
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