DURBAN - CULTURAL activists and religious leaders have rubbished the discussion on polyandry which sparked a heated debate in Parliament recently.
The polyandry legalisation is one of several wide-ranging proposals contained in the Green Paper, which the Department of Home Affairs has gazetted and since invited public comments.
Some religious leaders said there was still uncertainty surrounding the concept of a wife having more than one husband.
AV Mohamed, chairperson of the Juma Masjid Trust, said the new marriage proposal, which favoured wives to have multiple husbands, concerned him. He said this could be devastating to families whose cultural values and norms would be destroyed.
Mohamed called the discussion a taboo that will cause more societal degeneration. He said in a polygamous marriage, only men who could afford to care for wives equally were in a position to have more than one wife.
“This will disrupt family structures, destroy children who will grow in an environment with other men frequenting their homes. We have to be practical about this. It will never work. From the religious perspective, I do not think society will accept it,” said Mohamed.
He was certain women “with morality” won’t accept it because it will destroy family values, and his organisation would discuss the polyandry concept further.
Dr Velaphi Mkhize, founder and president of the Umsamo Institute and the SA Healers Association, said the idea of polyandry was an insult to African culture and women.
He said a woman was a root that kept the family together at all costs. He said paying a lobolo for a wife was an appreciation to her family.
“It has never happened in the past that a wife can have multiple husbands. On the other hand, polygamy was an ancestral gift – not every man could become a polygamist but polyandry has never existed,” said Mkhize.
He said the Constitution was being wrongly applied in allowing a disgraceful debate in the name of democracy.
Mkhize said, if passed, polyandry could promote more acts of domestic violence.
The department stressed in the document that it sought to create a new marriage act that allowed all in the country to conclude recognised and legal marriages. That’s because there were certain types of marriages that were not recognised and as a result, South Africa’s marriage legislation was viewed as not promoting equality.
Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, said Hindu marriages were not recognised by the law so commenting on this issue was irrelevant at this stage. He said the matter was still a topic for public debate.
In publishing their Green Paper for public comment, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will redefine the concept of marriage in South Africa.”
Motsoaledi said the next step to implementing the marriage policy would include submitting it to the Cabinet for approval by March 31 next year.
This would be followed by submitting the Marriage Bill to the Cabinet for approval by the end of March 2023 and, finally, taking the Marriage Bill to Parliament for approval by March 31, 2024.