Customary Marriage

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The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 120 of 1998, came into operation on 15 November 2000, and gives full legal recognition to customary marriages in South Africa. Customary marriages can be monogamous or polygamous. Polygamy means that a male older than 18 years of age can marry more than one wife.  A customary marriage can only be concluded in accordance with customary law. Customary law is defined as  the customs and usages traditionally observed among the indigenous African peoples of South Africa and which forms part of the culture of those people. Unfortunately this law still excludes the Hindu and Muslim faiths where polygamy is allowed. Hindu and Muslims must still be married according to the civil marriage act to have their marriages recognised as legal in South Africa. A man and a woman between whom a customary marriage exists may enter in a civil marriage (Marriage Act of 1961), if neither of them is a spouse in another subsisting customary marriage with any other person. It is however against civil law to have more than one wife and therefore you cannot enter into a customary marriage and civil marriage simultaneously.
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