Policy: Matrimonial property rules under SALRC scrutiny

The different property regimes applicable to all marriages will come under scrutiny as the SA Law Reform Commission (SALRC) wants them reviewed. A Cape Argus report says the commission has published a revised issue paper on the Review of Aspects of Matrimonial Property Law replacing the one that was published in August this year. ‘The revision is necessary in light of recent case law since the issue paper was published, as well as statutory and common law changes,’ said the SALRC. It added new issues had been added in the revised paper. These include religious marriages considering recent case law and developments in the single marriage statute and inclusion of unmarried life partnerships.

‘While customary marriages were originally partly included, the commission has had to grapple more fully with recent amendments and case law,’ the newspaper read. The SALRC’s investigation was initiated when the Commission for Gender Equality raised concerns about possible discrimination in the banking industry because of married couples not being allowed to open joint accounts with both partners enjoying equal status as account holders. The document said the country’s matrimonial property law contained certain default statutory provisions which purported to apply to all marriages unless the spouses enter into ante-nuptial contracts. ‘However, the applicable rules often result in substantive gender inequality leaving women (and the children for whom they are responsible) destitute at the end of the marriage,’ it read. It also maintained that there were different property regimes applicable to customary and Muslim marriages and piecemeal changes in matrimonial property regimes effected by the courts because of litigation.

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