South-Africa to legalize Polyandry
In the near future women in South Africa will soon be allowed to
marry more than one husband, in the same way, that polygamous
men are allowed to marry more than one wife. This is according to
the country’s Department of Home Affairs, which is looking at
creating a new marriage act.
The new marriage act will recognize a range of types of marriages
that are not legally recognized at the moment. According to the
Green Paper on Marriages, a policy document published this week,
the current marriage act does not promote equality.
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The policy document highlighted that the current marriage legislation
is discriminatory as it does not recognize Hindu, Jewish,
Muslim and Rastafarian marriages.
The policy document also called for polyandry to be legally
recognized as a form of marriage.
Polyandry is a form of polygamy in which a woman takes two or more
husbands at the same time. Polyandry is contrasted with polygyny,
which involves one man taking two or more wives.
The Green Paper proposed three new marriage regimes to bring
equality in marriage laws. One of these options is
a gender-neutral marriage regime.
South Africa’s Ministry of Home Affairs appears to favour the option
for a gender-neutral marriage regime that allows both polyandry
and polygyny. The Ministry wrote:
“The political appetite of the country to confront the challenges of
the current marriage statute will be tested through these options.
However, if Section 9 of the Constitution was to be implemented
in its entirety, option 3 will tick all the boxes.”
However, the option for polyandry seems to have ruffled feathers
and South Africa’s traditional leaders have vociferously opposed
the proposal. According to the traditional leaders, a woman being
married to more than one husband is an “unacceptable
practice because it is not of African origin.”
To which the Ministry commented saying: “Ironically, stakeholders
who believed in the practice of polygamy were opposed
to the practice of polyandry.”
The ministry said that though the new proposals may seem radical
and will not be welcomed by everyone, it is necessary for the
country to make the changes.
“This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will re-define
the concept of marriage in South Africa,” it said.
“The process will unearth issues that may make some of us
uncomfortable, but will encourage dialogue within the
South African and international communities.”
South Africans have until the end of June to comment
on the department’s proposals.