Johannesburg – The Government of South Africa is considering legalising polyandry, which will allow women to have more than one husband.
This is contained in a Department of Home Affairs policy proposal for a new Marriage Act.
Polygyny, where a man can have more than one wife, is already recognised in South Africa, as are same-sex marriages. By definition, polygyny and polyandry are types of polygamy.
The proposed new law will also legalise Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages, which are presently not formally recognised.
“The failure to recognise these religious marriages is untenable and discriminatory. Gender-neutral marriage regime would accommodate both polygyny and polyandry. The difference is that this option is gender-neutral. Therefore all marriages, whether monogamous or polygamous, could be concluded regardless of the sex or sexual orientation of the person,” reads the document.
“Activists submitted that equality demands that polyandry be legally recognised as a form of marriage. Traditional leaders were however among those who objected to polyandry and labelled it an ‘unacceptable practice because it is not of African origin’. Ironically, stakeholders who believed in the practice of (polygyny) were opposed to the practice of polyandry,” commented the department.
The public has until the end of June to comment on the department’s proposals.
People who spoke to The Southern Times in Johannesburg expressed mixed reactions on the proposals.
“No two bulls can live in the same kraal. This will not work. Even the women will not manage the pressure; I mean they cannot handle this. Why do they want to chew more than what they can swallow. We will not allow that to happen,” said security guard Mr Vuyo Nkosi.
Miss Lucia Mukwevho said legalising polyandry was welcome.
“This is the happiest news I have heard this week. It should be implemented as soon as possible. I will marry 5 of them myself,” she said.
The Home Affairs department acknowledged that the matter was bound to ruffle feathers, but maintained the changes were necessary.
“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.”