The Department of Home Affairs has published a new draft Marriage Bill and is inviting the public to comment on this Bill until Thursday, 31 August 2023. The Bill seeks to rationalise South Africa’s fragmented marriage law regime and to recognise religious marriages that are not legally protected by existing marriage laws. The Bill gives effect to the White Paper on Marriages in South Africa, which sets out the Department’s official policy position and is the outcome of a lengthy public participation process.
“Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is generally happy that the Bill reflects the outcomes of the White Paper”, said FOR SA Executive Director Michael Swain, “However, we remain concerned that the Bill does not contain a clause that expressly protects the religious freedom of Religious Marriage Officers. This is needed to ensure that they cannot be compelled to solemnise any marriage that conflicts with their faith convictions or those of the religious organisation to whom they belong. We are also asking for the Bill to be clarified to avoid unintentionally criminalising religious leaders who solemnise only the “religious component” of the marriage ceremony.”
The Bill also broadens the scope of who can be a marriage officer, by allowing anyone holding a responsible position within an organisation to apply to be one. Marriage officers will thus no longer be limited to State-employed marriage officers (i.e. Departmental employees) or to religious leaders who have applied for and hold marriage licences. FOR SA believes that this will better cater for the diverse needs of a diverse society such as South Africa, where all social groups will now be able to have their own marriage officers who can solemnise relationships in line with their own group’s value systems while observing the marriage legislation.
For more information, contact: Michael Swain (Executive Director)
Cell: 072 270 1217
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving the freedoms and rights that the South African Constitution has granted to the faith community. If you have found this helpful, please consider supporting the work of FOR SA to protect our constitutional right to enjoy the freedom of religion by: