Family law and violence against women fall hand in hand as women abuse is considered to be a section of family law. Therefore the rights of women within the family context need to be examined. Firstly in South Africa, the rights of women within a family depend on the type of marriage entered into. There are three types of marriage: civil marriage, customary marriage, and religious marriage. However of these three kinds of marriage, only two are recognised by the state being those of civil and religious marriages.
The rights that women are entitled to should be equal to those of their male counterparts, however due to marriage, many of these laws rights seem to fall by the wayside. For example, some religious marriages are arranged even though this is now illegal in South Africa. In some other instances, some customary marriages oblige a widow to marry another man from the family of her late husband.
Many of these types of marriages are against the will of the women, however, cultural leaders and family members are instructing them that they have to do it even though it is no longer the case. What is more is that polygamy in this country is not allowed however in customary law it’s permitted.
In addition to the above, women that are married under customary law are seen as perpetual minors and have no authority in the family. This is even reinforced in today’s society with the paying of lobola to the family of your bride. This money is paid for your bride to be and therefore she becomes a part of the husband’s property once this transaction has taken place. In addition to this, customary marriages do not permit the widows to claim any inheritance, but rather the deceased’s family get any inheritance that may have been. As you can see from the above, the rights of women in this country are a little shady at most, especially for women that are bound by customary laws. It can therefore be said that the rights of women in this country appear to be open to contradiction.
Family law and violence against women in South Africa is an especially hot topic at the moment with the appointment of Mogeong Mogeong as Chief Justice of South Africa. This is because of seriously questionable judgments that he made before being assigned to the position. In several court cases that he ruled over which involved the prosecution of men for rape or women abuse, he gave lighter sentences then were deserved as he claimed that the women involved were not seriously harmed.
In one case where a woman was dragged behind her boyfriend’s bakkie whilst he drove it, the new Chief Justice claimed that her injuries were not too serious and as a result let the abuser off with a fine. This nomination has caused a major outcry from a number of Women’s rights organisations in the country.
Violence against women in this country is a major issue and more and more organisations are trying to little avail to get harsher punishments against perpetrators and with the new Chief Justice in place, their struggle has become that much harder. This is especially relevant to customary laws which women in certain cultures are bound by.
South Africa is a country that is multicultural and as a result there are many customs that abuse the rights of women. It can therefore be said that the cultures that woman are born in to, affect the extent to which they are allowed their constitutional rights. As a result many cases of women abuse go without punishment or acknowledgement. It is therefore the responsibility of the state to bring about awareness of these rights so that people can stand up for themselves.