Cape Town - Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has said it is important for South Africa’s Draft Marriage Bill, which aims to modernise and expand the legal framework surrounding marriage in South Africa, to be grounded in social justice.
She suggested the bill be put through its paces using a social justice test formulated by Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Social Justice.
Madonsela was speaking during a virtual round table she hosted for fellow academics and officials from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to discuss the social justice implications of the draft bill.
“This test would check whether the bill uses whatever opportunities are available to advance equality between those who are getting married and within the communities and different cultural groups that will be impacted by this law,” she said.
DHA policy chief director Sihle Mthiyane assured the round table participants that the bill was grounded in important constitutional aspects such as equality and non-discrimination.
He said the bill was not perfect or final, but the department’s aim was to ensure it was seen to be the product of extensive engagement with communities across the country.
Before the closing date for public comments on the bill, on August 31, Mthiyane said senior DHA officials, led by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, would hold engagements with the public and stakeholders.
Religious groups have come together to push for an extension of time for public comment on the bill.
ChristianView network spokesperson Philip Rosenthal said the August 30 deadline for the public participation received on August 10 was too short for them to apply their minds and participate meaningfully in the consultation.
“Concurrently, during the remainder of August 2023, there is other urgent legislation affecting religious freedom in Parliament, including the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill and the Hate Speech Bill.”
He said there was no urgency as the current bill was working fine and the short deadline would reduce the quality of comment that religious organisations were able to give with a deadline for the end of August.
Al Jama-ah MP Ganief Hendricks said they would also be requesting an extension.
Hendricks said the draft bill required a code of conduct and that religious structures needed to be involved and this would mean more time was required to make the necessary submissions.