According to a report by iharare in South Africa, the new marriage act will recognise a range of types of marriages that are not legally recognised at the moment.
The news outlet reported that the Green Paper on Marriages, a policy document published this week, the current marriage act does not promote equality.
The document highlighted that the current marriage legislation is discriminatory as it does not recognise Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages.
The policy document also called for polyandry to be legally recognised as a form of marriage.
Polyandry is a form of polygamy in which a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time. Polyandry is contrasted with polygyny, which involves one man taking two or more wives.
The Green Paper proposed three new marriage regimes to bring equality in marriage laws. One of these options is a gender-neutral marriage regime.
South Africa’s Ministry of Home Affairs whose department is spearheading the gender-neutral marriage regime that allows both polyandry and polygyny has endorsed the move.
“The political appetite of the country to confront the challenges of the current marriage statute will be tested through these options. However, if Section 9 of the Constitution was to be implemented in its entirety, option 3 will tick all the boxes,” the Ministry wrote.
South Africa’s traditional leaders have however kicked against the legalization of polyandry, saying it is an “unacceptable practise because it is not of African origin.”
In response to the traditional leaders’ position on the matter, the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote: “Ironically, stakeholders who believed in the practice of polygamy … were opposed to the practice of polyandry.”
The ministry added that the time to make those changes it referred to as necessary is now, despite the stiff opposition.
“This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will re-define the concept of marriage in South Africa,” it said.
“The process will unearth issues that may make some of us uncomfortable, but will encourage dialogue within the South African and international communities.”
Reports say South Africans have until the end of June to comment on the department’s proposals which it is bent on seeing through.