n Acta Juridica - Marriage, land and custom : what's law got to do with it?

Volume 2013, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



Significant processes of change and adaptation are currently underway in relation to marriage and the land rights of single women living in 'communal' areas in South Africa. Scholars describe declining marriage rates, particularly among poor African women and argue that this downward trend has accelerated in the post-apartheid period. African women are the main recipients of government social security grants and are also those directly affected by the 1998 Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA), along with subsequent administrative processes put in place to register customary marriages and litigation over its meaning and content. Alongside changes in marriage patterns we see single women increasingly claiming, and being allocated, residential sites for themselves and their children in 'communal areas'. On the face of it, this practice appears to confound the customary law premise of land rights vesting exclusively in men. In this volume we ask how the significant and far reaching processes of change that are underway relate to one another, and to broader economic and political developments in South African society, and examine the impact of the implementation of the RCMA in this volatile arena.

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