South Africa’s Home Affairs Department has proposed a new law that will permit women to marry more than one husband, the same way that polygamous men are permitted to marry more than one wife.
The 67-page policy document which is also called Green Paper on Marriages, stated that the current marriage act does not advance equality.
According to the policy document, the current marriage legislation discriminates as it does not value Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages. Also, the policy document called for polyandry to be recognised legally as a type of marriage.
The Green Paper proposed three new marriage types that would bring equality in marriage laws. One of these alternatives is a gender-neutral marriage regime.
It read: “This would accommodate both polygyny and polyandry.
“…Therefore all marriages, whether monogamous or polygamous, could be concluded regardless of the sex or sexual orientation of the person.”
South Africa’s Ministry of Home Affairs seems to favour the option for a gender-neutral marriage regime that permits 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.”
The Ministry however remarked that the option for polyandry has not been welcomed as South Africa’s traditional leaders strongly opposed the proposal and claimed that a woman being married to more than one husband is an “unacceptable practise because it is not of African origin.”
“Ironically, stakeholders who believed in the practice of polygamy … were opposed to the practice of polyandry.
“This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will re-define the concept of marriage in South Africa.
“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 are expected to comment on the department’s proposals before the end of June.