16 Days Of Discontent: Day 14 – Domestic violence and the legal recognition of relationships

Today’s particular example is the Domestic Partnerships Bill. Women are made economically dependent on men in at least two ways:

  • By discouraging women from working in order to look after their children
  • By confining women to stereotypical lower-paying ‘women’s work’ or simply paying women less.

Picture of a set of wedding ringsAs a result, relationships are as much a matter of economic necessity to women, as they are of romantic choice.

The need to protect the weaker party in marriage is one of the justifications for state regulation of marriage. Yet all marriage-like relationships are not protected in South Africa. This may exacerbate or compound the abuse that women experience when their relationships are not legally recognised. For instance, where married women have a claim to the property and other assets accumulated during the course of the relationship, co-habiting women have no such claim. Thus the dissolution of their relationships may impoverish them to a greater degree than it would married women. They are also very vulnerable to being evicted from their former homes by their ex-partners. In fact, it precisely this absence of legal obligations, and the ability to enter and leave relationships freely, that leads some men to prefer cohabitation over marriage.

For the delay in attending to the Domestic Partnerships Bill the Department of Home Affairs and parliament scores: 0/10

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