getting married

Home Affairs’ plans to introduce a new draft marriage policy were announced in 2020. Image: Adobe Stock

Proposed new marriage legislation for South Africans: Have your say

A single marriage statute could finally be on the cards and South Africans have a chance to give their input.

getting married

Home Affairs’ plans to introduce a new draft marriage policy were announced in 2020. Image: Adobe Stock

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced its plans to introduce a new draft marriage policy in South Africa in October 2020.

The policy was originally set to be gazetted for public consultation during the 2020/2021 financial year, after which it was to be submitted to Cabinet for approval by 31 March 2021. However, the process has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) wants South Africa to have a single marriage statute and has called for comment on a discussion paper which proposes the introduction of two alternative draft bills. These are:

• The Recognition and Registration of Marriages and Life Partnerships Bill; and
• The Protected Relationships Bill.

The draft bill also covers the following issues:

• The capacity and age of the parties;
• The role of marriage officers;
• The regulations for polygynous marriages; and
• Instances where a relationship is not officially solemnised.

“The bills seek to provide for the recognition of protected relationships or of marriages and life partnerships, entered into by parties regardless of the religious, cultural or any other beliefs of the parties, or the manner in which the relationship was entered into,” SALRC said.


The current legislation does not regulate some religious marriages such as Hindu, Muslim and other customary marriages that are practised in some African or royal families.

BusinessTech quoted the DHA as saying: “Given the diversity of the South Africa population, it is virtually impossible to pass legislation governing every single religious or cultural marriage practice.

“It is against this background that the DHA is embarking in the process of developing a marriage policy that will lay a policy foundation for drafting a new single or omnibus legislation.”

BusinessTech singled out several of the important changes to be introduced by the proposed new policy, including:

  • The new Marriage Act will enable South Africans of different sexual orientation, religious and cultural persuasions to conclude legal marriages;
  • It will deal with the solemnisation and registration of customary marriages that involve non-citizens, especially cross-border communities or citizens of our neighbouring countries;
  • It will deal with the solemnisation and registration of marriages that involve foreign nationals;
  • The introduction of strict rules around the age of marriage (including the alignment of age of majority in the marriage legislation to the Children’s Act);
  • It will align the marriage, matrimonial property and divorce legislation to address matrimonial property and intestate succession matters in the event of the marriage dissolution; and
  • It will allow for equitable treatment and respect for religious and customary beliefs in line with Section 15 of the Constitution.

The discussion paper (which includes both bills) in question is number 152 and it can be viewed here. Alternatively, contact Jacob Kabini at for a free copy.

Written comment, representations or submissions on the subject must be sent to the law reform commission’s Pierre van Wyk via e-mail at before March 31.