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Cabinet Approves New Law For Customary Marriages


Presidency Minister Jackson Mthembu announced on Thursday, that Parliament will table a new bill that provides the equal treatment of women in customary marriages.

What does the new law mean?

It basically means that the Cabinet has approved a new law which gives women who entered into monogamous and polygamous customary marriages prior to 1998 equal rights to marital property.

“The amendments eliminate the gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the Recognition Customary Marriages Ammendment bill of 1998”

 Presidency Minister Jackson Mthembu

The bill:

  • 1.2. 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 judgements of the Constitutional Court, which declared the sections constitutionally invalid. The sections discriminated unfairly against women in customary marriages. 
  • 1.3. The Bill provides for the 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.

The bill is to aid equality

“The Bill also provides for the equal treatment of women in pre-Act monogamous and polygamous customary marriages.

Spouses will now have joint and equal proprietary rights over marital property. This means that husbands will no longer have exclusive proprietary rights over marital property to the detriment of their wives. Children can also benefit as they will be able to inherit from the mother as well.”

Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services

The new law is based on all customary marriages, and the bill is in agreement with a 2018 Constitutional Court order which declared the old act invalid. Parliament was given two years to make a change.

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