The Department of Home Affairs has published a draft Marriage Policy for South Africa, for public comment by no later than 30 JUNE 2021.
The purpose of the Policy, the first of its kind in South Africa, is to “establish a policy foundation for regulating the marriages of all persons that reside in SA”.
The Policy itself will be followed by a single Marriage Act, “that will enable South Africans and residents of all sexual orientations, religious and cultural persuasions to conclude legal marriages that will accord with the principles of equality, non-discrimination, human dignity and unity in diversity, as encapsulated in the Constitution”.
*NOTE THAT the Marriage Policy proposed by the Department, is something different (although related) to the Single Marriage Bills proposed by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC). For this reason, even if you have already made a submission on the Single Marriage Bills to the SALRC, please also make a submission on the proposed Marriage Policy to the Department!
From a religious freedom point of view, FOR SA is concerned that the draft Marriage Policy will potentially force religious marriage officers (of whatever faith) to solemnise marriages even if it goes against their, and/or their organisation’s, religious convictions and beliefs.
In this regard, the draft Marriage Policy specifically states that the (current) statutory right of religious marriages officers to “refuse to solemnise a marriage that would not conform to the rites, formularies, tenets, doctrines or discipline of his religious denomination or organisation … lends itself to discriminatory behaviour disguised as religious doctrine” (pp 29, 51-52).
As such, the Policy proposes, amongst other things, that (pp 52-53):
a.Religious marriage officers must serve all members of the public who wish to marry without exception; OR
b.Marriage officers only perform a religious, rather than a legal, function. Marriage parties must approach the Department themselves to officially register their marriage after the ceremonial component has been concluded.
Another controversial issue in the draft Marriage Policy, is the proposal that – in the name of equality – polyandry (i.e. one woman marrying more than one man) be legally recognised as a form of marriage (pp 48-49).
Since same-sex marriage is already recognised as marriage in our law, the knock-on effect of this would be that – again, in the name of equality – a man should be able to marry more than one man, or a woman more than one woman, or any combination of men or women could be legally married to each other.
CALL TO ACTION:
FOR SA strongly encourages all churches and religious institutions, and all religious marriage officers, of whatever faith, to submit comments on the draft Marriage Policy.
Click here to download a template submission that FOR SA has prepared for organisations and individuals who want to make a submission respectively, which you are welcome to use “as is” or to assist you with points for a submission which you may want to prepare with additional comments or an alternate focus.
Submissions can be emailed to the Director-General: Department of Home Affairs at [email protected] by no later than 30 JUNE 2021 (the deadline for submissions).
Please also consider clicking here to donate towards the work of FOR SA as we are 100% dependent upon voluntary contributions to continue to protect and promote our religious freedom rights.
Adv Nadene Badenhorst
Legal Counsel, FOR SA