Discussion Paper no. 99-2


With the recent passing by parliament of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998 (Act 120 of 1998), it is now possible to increase the coverage of registered marriages and divorces in South Africa. In the past, since certain unions were legally not recognised, the marriage statistics collected by the Department of Home Affairs excluded a large proportion of marriages, for example customary marriages among Africans. However, the passing of legislation on its own is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure that customary marriages are indeed registered. The aim of the paper is to explore ways of making sure that these marriages in particular and marriages in general, are adequately registered. The paper starts by outlining the relevance of statistics on marriages and divorces, drawing from published literature. This is followed by a discussion on registration issues and the challenges to be faced in trying to improve the registration of marriages and divorces. The paper ends with a discussion followed by a conclusion.