Mixed reaction to government’s plan to develop a new Single Marriage Bill
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Cape Town - The Cabinet’s approval of the publication of the Green Paper on Marriages for public consultation received mixed reactions from religious organisations and political parties, with the Al Jama-ah party calling it harmful, and ACDP saying it is a waste of money.
In a statement, the Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said the paper seeks to work towards the development of a new Single Marriage Bill and aligns the marriage regime with the constitutional principle of equality.
“It makes proposals on unions of people from all sexual orientations, religious and cultural persuasions. It also proposes the complete removal of child marriages in South Africa's future marriage regime.”
In December last year the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that the Marriage Act 25 of 1961 and the Divorce Act 70 of 1979, were inconsistent with the Constitution.
The SCA told the government to remedy the situation by either amending existing legislation, or passing new legislation within 24 months, in order to ensure the recognition of Muslim marriages as valid marriages.
Over the weekend Al Jama-ah party leader Ganief Hendricks warned that if the government went ahead with the Green Paper proposals, Muslims would conduct a defiance campaign.
Hendricks said: “The government is trying to circumvent a judgement by the Supreme Court of Appeal that it must pass a Muslim Marriage Act by October 2022. This is not going to be taken lightly by Muslims.
“We have written a letter of protest to the office of the ANC secretary-general and hoping to arrange a virtual meeting with President Ramaphosa.”
ACDP MP Steven Swart said: “The ACDP questions the need for spending much-needed state funds on developing a Single Marriage Bill. In our view, these matters, including the much- anticipated recognition of Muslim and Hindu religious marriages, can be dealt with relatively quickly by amending existing marriage laws.
“Meanwhile, why was the Civil Union Amendment Act passed with such haste to remove the right of conscientious objection for state marriage officials, when a comprehensive review of all marriage legislation was anticipated?”
However, the national body representing the cultural and religious aspirations of South Africa’s Hindu community, the SA Hindu Maha Sabha SAHMS said the Green Paper on Marriages was long overdue.
SAHMS President Ashwin Trikamjee said: “We have been concerned about the non-recognition of traditional Hindu marriages and the inherent discrimination. We were consulted and provided input in the formulation of the new policy.”