Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 November 2011
South Africa is committed to upholding the international law directive proclaiming the rights of ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities to promote their indigenous culture, to practice their religion, and to speak their language without undue state interference. Throughout its history, it sought to afford legality to customary law practices of its rich variety of peoples. However, affording full recognition to multi-tiered marriages was problematic from the outset due mainly to the persistence of a typically Western perception of marriage and the dictates of predominantly Christian principles relating to matrimonial affairs.
Marriage law in South Africa reflects an evolving fusion of historical and current developments. The ample diversity of peoples, religions, and cultures colors the multidimensional approaches to marriage in both official and unofficial marriage law. In striving to reconcile the various forms of marriage and union with constitutional principles of equality and nondiscrimination, South Africa faces a Herculean challenge that will not be fully conquered any time in the near future.