oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Cohabitation relationships revisited: is it not time for acceptance?

Volume 29, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



In South Africa, there are currently no statistics or data dealing with the numbers of cohabiting couples but reasonable impressions indicate that the practice is prevalent and on the increase. Cohabitation today is less stigmatised than in the past. Its increasing social acceptability and the absence of stricture and formality appear to make it increasingly popular, yet it is precisely these perceived 'advantages' which create the greatest potential for problems. In the past, in South Africa, couples may have elected to live together in concubinage (rather than marry) because of the obvious tax benefits at a time when married women were the most heavily burdened citizens, or because married women were immediately excluded from many state or other work-related subsidies. This has all changed, yet evidence indicates that cohabitation remains a popular lifestyle despite the lack of legal rules regulating the rights of cohabiters. Even today many people believe that simply living with another person for a continuous period establishes legal rights and duties between them.

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