A giant leap ahead for women’s rights

A giant leap ahead for women’s rights
12 Apr 2021

The cabinet has approved the submission of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill of 2019 to Parliament. Section 7(1) and (2) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 1998 discriminated unfairly against women in customary marriages but was declared constitutionally invalid and has now been brought in line with the Judgement of the Constitutional Court in 2017.

Prevously, marriages entered into in terms of Customary Law before 1998 were distinguished from marriages entered into after 1998, which are regarded as in community of property marriages. In those marriages entered into before 1998, the husbands retained ownership of the marital property and assets. The women were, as such, left at the mercy of their husbands.

In terms of this new Amendment Bill, marriages entered into before the amendment of the Act will now also be regarded as marriages in community of property which allows women in those marriages to have ownership and/or rights regarding the marital property. The rights of thousands of women that were previously not recognised will soon be afforded protection when the bill becomes law.

The amendment furthermore does not only eliminate gender-based discrimination but also assists children. In all matters children are our most paramount concern. Children born from customary marriages will now enjoy the benefit of being able and entitled to inherit from their deceased mothers, since husbands will no longer have exclusive proprietary rights over marital property.

It is remarkable to note that not only are our courts and legislatures moving ahead and empowering women but companies and businesses are also granting women their much deserved recognition. Adams and Adams Attorneys, one of the biggest law firms in Africa, has just appointed the first ever female Chairperson of the firm – what a remarkable leap for the future.

Customary marriages remain a niche field since every matter is determined on its own merits. It is therefore crucial for parties who are married in terms of customary law to seek the guidance of a specialist to know and understand his or her rights.

Shani van Niekerk at Adams and Adams ([email protected]) is a family law specialist who is able to assist in all customary marriage and other family law disputes queries.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Shani van Niekerk
Shani van Niekerk

Shani van Niekerk is a senior associate at Adams & Adams' CPL department. Her speciality and passion lie in matrimonial disputes and family law, inclusive of Domestic Violence and Harassment... Read more about Shani van Niekerk


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