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Section of Customary Marriages Act ruled unconstitutional

Publish date: 04 August 2016
Issue Number: 4046
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: Litigation

The Limpopo High Court (Thohoyandou) ruled this week that women in polygamous marriages have equal rights and that the Customary Marriages Act discriminates against them. It handed down judgment in the Ramuhovhi matter, where, according to a statement from the Women’s Legal Centre on the Legalbrief Today site, the core issue raised was the constitutional validity of section 7(1) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, which regulates the proprietary consequences of polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the Act on 15 November 2000. The section states: ‘The proprietary consequences of a customary marriage entered into before the commencement of this Act continue to be governed by customary law.’ By implication the section imports customary law rules that preclude women from owning and controlling property equally with men in the marriages to which it applies. The court declared section 7(1) inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid; and held that ‘until such time that legislation is passed to govern the proprietary consequences of customary polygamous marriages that occurred before the Act was passed, the wives who are parties to such marriages shall have joint and equal rights of management and control over and in the marital property of their husbands’. Says lead attorney for Woman’s Legal Centre Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker: ‘We are delighted with the outcome and believe that this takes us one step closer to reducing discrimination against women in our society. This is a good start to the month known as Women’s Month.’

Statement on Legalbrief Today site