Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has expressed disappointment in the manner in which a proposal on polyandry, which is among several proposals contained in the Green Paper on the Marriage Act, has been debated in a misleading and destructive way.
The Minister said this when he tabled the department’s budget vote at a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“It is with very deep disappointment that the national dialogue descended into a war of words and cynicism about… [an] issue raised from the Ministerial Dialogue – the issue of polyandry – which… was raised by some of the participants at the Ministerial Dialogues.
“My deepest disappointment was when media houses… worse still, Honourable Members of this Parliament, entered this dialogue in a completely destructive and misleading way. One respected media outlet even spoke of a Bill having been placed in Parliament.”
This comes after the department recently released the Green Paper on the Marriage Act, aimed at making the country’s marriage policy anchored on the three pillars of the Constitution – equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.
Among the proposals contained in the green paper, which Motsoaledi clarified that they are not government policy, is a proposal to allow polyandry – where women will be allowed to marry more than one man; proposals to recognise Muslim marriages, Hindu marriages and marriages conducted according to Jewish rites, and a proposal to review who can solemnise marriages, among others.
“From the debates I listened to, it became clear to me that many of such commentators did not even bother to read a copy of the Green Paper we provided.
“Right at the beginning of the Green Paper, the following words are written: ‘The Green Paper is not the official policy position of government. It only articulates possible policy options or proposals that are based on inputs received from stakeholders during Ministerial Dialogues. These proposals will be subjected to public scrutiny.’”
Motsoaledi said while a Green Paper basically contains proposals or ideas aimed at stimulating debate around the review of the marriage policy, a white paper, on the other hand, is issued by government as a statement of policy, and often set out proposals for legislative changes or the introduction of new laws. Proposals often emerge from a Green Paper process.
“I am pleading that the national dialogue on this Green Paper be conducted responsibly and in the true spirit of nation building.
“Please let us lower the excitement and deal with the very important issues mentioned by our people who experience serious hardships in their everyday existence in their endeavor to build viable families – which every nation on earth strives for – for there is no nation without families.”
Progress made in implementing strategic plan on GBV
Meanwhile, the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has made progress in implementing the strategic plan on gender-based violence, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said during a separate mini-plenary.
“Since the launch of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF in April last year, the department is working tirelessly to coordinate and monitor the implementation of this plan,” she said.
She said progress has been made, and this includes:
– Monthly progress reports on the implementation of the NSP were submitted to the President;
– National departments have integrated the NSP priorities in their Departmental Annual Plans and have been reporting against their annual targets;
– Multi-stakeholder collaboratives supported by UN Women, are fully functional and meet regularly to support implementation of the NSP;
– The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is working with provinces and districts to integrate the NSP into their provincial departmental plans, district development plan and establishment of District Rapid Response Teams, and
– The Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBVF continues to oversee the implementation of NSP by playing a key facilitation role.
“We have developed a Draft Bill to establish a National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide that will coordinate the implementation of the NSP to ensure that as a nation, we eradicate Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in this decade. We will be consulting on this Bill soon,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.