PRESS RELEASEHUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION ADVOCATES FOR CELEBRATING DIVERSITY THROUGH MARRIAGE LAWS - 28 MAY 2021
PRESS RELEASE BY CAUSE FOR JUSTICE: 28 MAY 2021
* FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE *
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION ADVOCATES FOR CELEBRATING DIVERSITY THROUGH MARRIAGE LAWS
The South African Law Reform Commission is investigating the possibility of updating South Africa’s marriage regime by adopting of a single marriage statute. In January 2021, the Commission published its Discussion Paper on Project 144 and invited stakeholders comments. In response, human rights organisation, Cause For Justice, delivered written submissions on 14 May 2021.
Protecting Fundamental Rights and Diversity in terms of Marriage
Cause for Justice focused its comments on how diversity in terms of marriage and marriage officers’ fundamental rights can be protected in a pluralistic society – particularly the rights to human dignity; equality; and freedom of religion, conscience, opinion and belief. It also lent strong support for the position taken by the Commission, that –
- The state has no interest in defining or imposing its views of what ‘marriage’ is on members of society; and
- The state’s only legitimate interest (and accompanying legal duty) is to recognise and give legal protection to such relationships.
In support of its stance, Cause For Justice addressed aspects concerning different categories of marriage officers; the marriage formula; and the time, place and form of marriages.
Categories of Marriage Officers
The Commission proposed utilising a wide variety of different categories of marriage officers. Cause For Justice agreed that this approach is most likely to offer the best recognition for, and protection and promotion of, diversity in accommodating different religious, cultural and secular views on marriage. It also allows the state to reasonable accommodate marriage officers’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Cause For Justice stressed that reasonable accommodation also applies to state marriage officers as it would be a failure of democracy if persons could be deprived of their constitutional rights simply on account of being employed by the state.
Cause For Justice fully supported the Commission’s proposal that the state has no interest in prescribing a specific marriage formula for the conclusion of a valid marriage. Since the marriage formula is intimately personal, it argued in support of its content being left for religions institutions and cultural organisation to determine for themselves.
Time, Place and Form of Marriages
The Commission proposed that marriage officers be given the freedom to solemnise marriages at any time of the week; at any place; in accordance with any mode of solemnisation; and with any religious or cultural practices. Cause For Justice agreed that this approach is best suited to protect marriage officers’ rights and to prevent unjustifiable state interference.
Deciding between ‘Marriage’ and ‘Protected Relationships’?
The Discussion Paper included two draft Bills allowing for two different ‘wording’ options:
- The first option allows for the term “marriage” to be used for all the relationships to which the state attaches legal protection; and
- The second option makes use of the wording “protected relationships” for relationships that enjoy legal protection.
Taking into consideration the diverging views different religious institutions and cultural organisations may have of what ‘marriage’ is, Cause For Justice indicated its preference for the more neutral and inclusive phrase ‘protected relationship’. It regards using the word ‘marriage’ as an overarching term to describe any type of protected relationship, to be inappropriate and even dictatorial. Cause For Justice was careful to emphasised that using the terminology ‘protected relationship’ does not nullify the institution of marriage – it merely broadens the scope of what the law recognises as a ‘legally protected relationship’ beyond ‘marriage’ only.
The South African Law Reform Commission will now consider all the public comments it received and produce its final Report. Cause For Justice will monitor the progress of Project 144 and take up further opportunities to engage the Commission and others with a view to protecting constitutional freedoms in South Africa.
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For further queries, contact CFJ at
Tel: 074 355 0775