SA govt considers new marriage law that recognises women with multiple husbands

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Polyandry is defined as a form of polygamy in which a woman has more than one husband while polygyny is a form of polygamy in which a man has more than one wife.

In South Africa, only polygyny is currently recognised where polygamous men can have many wives.

In a push to promote equality, the Department of Home Affairs recently published a landmark policy document calling for polyandry to be legally recognised as a form of marriage.

The department’s Green Paper on Marriages states that the current marriage act is discriminatory and does not promote equality.

The Green Paper also puts forward proposals to recognise Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages.

Elizabeth Retief, a member of PolyamorySA, has welcomed the proposal as a move in the right direction.

According to Retief, the department’s proposals are a step closer towards the acceptance of non-monogamy in South Africa.

However, she explains that the laws are still focused on polyandry and polygyny, which are both forms of polygamous marriages.

Polygamous marriages are primarily based on traditional value systems, cultural beliefs, heteronormativity, and static gender roles, she argues.

Retief says greater advocacy is still needed for polyamorous relationships, which are more fluid, progressive, open, and accepting of different sexualities and gender identities.

It’s high time this happened… and maybe eventually this will come around to polyamorous marriages because polygamy and polyamory are actually quite contradictory ways of life, while it actually might seem the same on the surface.

Elizabeth Retief, Member of PolyamorySA

Any step in the direction of breaking away from this very strong idea that monogamy is the only way to have a relationship is a step in the right direction.

Elizabeth Retief, Member of PolyamorySA

Marriage confers certain legal rights, advantages, and responsibilities.

Elizabeth Retief, Member of PolyamorySA

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