Political parties which draw their support from religious voters have slammed a proposed change to South Africa’s marriage laws which could see a woman marrying more than one man.
The legalisation of polyandry is just one of a number of wide-ranging proposals in the Green Paper which the Department of Home Affairs said it has gazetted in a bid to invite substantive comments from the public.
Al Jama-ah Party leader Ganief Hendricks said his party would support street protests if a proposal on polyandry contained in a government Green Paper on marriage is included in legislation. It was the government’s responsibility to “uphold decent moral values”, he said.
Hendricks said: “The second and subsequent marriages in a polyandrous marriage will be considered by Al Jama-ah as an adulterous relationship.
“Al Jama-ah will support street protests against this provision so that it is not included in the Bill expected to be ready for Cabinet approval in 2023. Disapproval will also form part of our manifesto for the 2024 national elections.”
The Muslim Judicial Council’s spokesperson Muneer Abdouroaf said: “As the Muslim community we are in favour of a bill that recognises polygyny where a husband is allowed to have two or more wives up to a maximum of four.
“However as far as polyandry is concerned, it is something which is foreign to Islamic law and therefore we are not in support of that type of provision in the Bill.”
ACDP president Rev Kenneth Meshoe MP said: “The ACDP does not, and will not support the legalisation of polyandry. We are of the opinion that it will be an unworkable exercise.
“We will study the government’s Green Paper on Marriages in more detail regarding this specific aspect, but our stance on this subject will not change.”
From the provincial legislature, ACDP MPL Ferlon Christians said the party’s stance on the matter was based on biblical principles.
“Polyandry is virtually illegal in every country. I cannot comprehend why we want to confuse the next generation.
“South Africa is moving in the opposite direction of what God wants for this beautiful country. Traditional leaders were among those who objected to polyandry and label it as an unacceptable practice because it is not of African origin.”
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town’s spokesperson Wendy Kelderman said responding to the issue would be premature before engaging in further discussions with the SA Council of Churches on the subject.
However, the provincial DA Women’s Network (DAWN) chairperson Wendy Philander said: “Polyandry in the most basic terms means that both men and women can choose to be in polygamous relationship, and DAWN in the Western Cape supports the notion that each individual has the right to choose their own type of marriage.”
Meanwhile Women’s Legal Centre spokesperson Ru du Toit said the organisation had not yet read the Green Paper but would share their thoughts on it when they adopt a position and draft a submission.
Publishing the Green Paper, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said: “This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will re-define the concept of marriage in SA.
“The process will unearth issues that may make some of us uncomfortable, but will encourage dialogue within South African and international communities.”
Motsoaledi said the next stop on the roadmap to implementing the marriage policy, after gazetting the draft marriage policy for public comments, would include submitting the marriage policy 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.
In the overview to the Green Paper, the Department of Home Affairs wrote that the purpose of the marriage policy is to establish a blueprint foundation for regulating the marriages of all people that reside in South Africa, including citizens, international migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
“The marriage policy will therefore cover issues that straddle the three mandates of the department.
“The envisaged marriage statute will enable South Africans and residents of all sexual orientations, religions and cultural persuasions to conclude legal marriages that will accord with the principles of equality, non-discrimination, human dignity and unity in diversity, as encapsulated in the Constitution.”