In this edition of the Business Day Spotlight, we talk about the implications of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill.

Our host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by David Thomson, senior legal adviser at Sanlam Trust to discuss the proposed changes to the law.

The National Assembly recently passed the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill which will be sent to the president for approval.

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Thomson explains that the bill is a big development in terms of women’s rights, particularly for black women who have for a long time been unable to claim from their deceased partners’ estates, for example, due to the customary marriage legislation having traditionally separated the property of married parties.

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.

Once the bill is signed, it will mean that all women married under the Customary Marriages Act will be entitled to a share of the joint estate either on the death of their spouse or divorce, unless the couple have a notarial marriage contract excluding community of profit and loss.

Thomson says these changes have been long in the making, with the process having started in the Constitutional Court almost four years ago. Despite this length of time, he says the implications are likely to come as a surprise to many that have still not acted to acquaint themselves with the new legislation.

The discussion focuses on why the current Customary Marriages Act is inconsistent with the constitution and invalid; what the amended act would change in terms of law and what this means for those married under the current act or those who plan to enter into a customary marriage in the future; together with real-life examples of recent customary marriages cases.

Thomson also explains how shifts in earning power between men and women could be a consideration as well as plans for a unifying marriage law that brings civil, customary and religious unions together under one piece of legislation.

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 Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

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