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2. Entering into a Civil Union

Riana and Charlene, both South Africans, have a lesbian relationship and want to get married. Riana is 21 years and Charlene is 25 years old. Riana has been married before but is now officially divorced.

What Does the Law Say?

Riana and Charlene are not legally allowed to marry each other in terms of the Marriage Act. The Civil Union Act, however, allows them to enter into a civil union which can be either a marriage or civil partnership. If they do this they will get a certificate that indicates that they have either entered into a marriage or a civil partnership, depending on their choice. This registration certificate, shows that the civil union has been registered under the Civil Union Act and is not a marriage certificate under the Marriage Act. The certificate will serve as a legal proof that the two partners are married or have become civil partners.

Riana and Charlene will be able to register a civil union because (a) they are both over the age of 18 years, (b) while Riana was previously married, she is divorced and has divorce documents to prove this, and (c) both women are South African citizens.

What Can They Do?

Riana and Charlene can get married or enter into a civil partnership in terms of the Civil Unions Act at any public office, including the Department of Home Affairs and magistrate’s court in their area, in any private dwelling, including their own home, or any other place that is used for the purposes of marriages or civil partnerships.

They will need to supply the following documents:

  • Identity documents (or an affidavit if an ID or passport is not available to confirm their identity;
  • Application forms specific to the Civil Union Act which can be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs in their area;
  • Riana’s divorce documents

Finally, they will need to have two witnesses to the ceremony.

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