While South Africa’s laws are progressive,
their implementation often leaves gaps arising from the real challenges that women face.
Cabinet’s recent approval of the submission to Parliament of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill of 2019 is just one of the ways in which this is being addressed.
The Bill brings Section 7(1) and (2) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA) 1998 (Act 120 of 1998) in line with the Constitutional Court’s judgment in 2017,
which declared the sections constitutionally invalid as they discriminated unfairly against women in customary marriages.
Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefi ng in Cape Town recently, the Minister in the Presidency,
Jackson Mthembu, explained that the Bill provides for equal treatment of women in pre-Act monogamous and polygamous customary marriages.
“The amendments eliminate the gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the RCMA of 1998. Spouses will now have joint and equal proprietary rights over marital property,” Mthembu said.
This means that husbands will no longer have exclusive proprietary rights over marital property to the detriment of their wives.
Children can also benefi t, as they will be able to inherit from their mother as well.
Register marriages timeously The RCMA became law on 15 November 2000.
It recognises all customary marriages that were valid under customary law, including marriages that were regarded as invalid by the Black Administration Act.
In terms of section 4(3)(a) of the Act, customary marriages entered into before the commencement
of the Act − which were not already registered in terms of any other law − had to be registered within 12 months of the commencement of the Act.
Section 4(3)(b) of the Act states that marriages entered into after the commencement of the Act, must be registered within three months of the marriage.
The period in which customary marriages could be registered, in terms of both of these sections of the Act, was then extended until 31 December 2016.
On 30 November 2017 the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in the Ramuhovhi case.
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