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The Civil Union Act...South Africa

The Civil Union Act – South Africa

The Civil Union Act – South Africa

On the 24th of August 2006, the Civil Union Bill was approved by Cabinet to be submitted to Parliament. Initially, the bill would only allow civil partnerships to be open to same-sex couples, which would have the same legal consequences as a marriage would have. There were many rules that did apply to different types of couples, which changed over time. Here is a brief idea of what same-sex couples can now expect regarding marriage and partnerships, especially if they are planning ion immigrating to South Africa.

The Restrictions that are Involved

Both people who wish to be married or join a civil partnership need to be over the age of 18 and not already married. The same rules that apply to the marriage act also apply to the civil act – nobody may marry any direct descendant, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece etc.


Both civil partnerships and marriages need to be solemnised by an authorised person (marriage officer). Government officials (home affairs civil servants and magistrates) are also allowed to solemnise civil unions. Religious leaders may also be appointed to solemnise civil unions.
Government marriage officers who do not wish to solemnise same-sex marriages may let home affairs know in writing that they do not wish to do so, and will then not be forced to solemnise them. This does not apply to religious marriage officers, as they are not forced to solemnise a marriage that could violate their beliefs.


The discrimination against any same-sex couples is not allowed and is so stated under section 9 of the constitution.

Recognition of foreign unions

The act does not make any explicit provisions for the recognition of same-sex unions (foreign). A foreign same-sex marriage is recognised as marriage by South Africa. The laws regarding any other forms of foreign partnerships is a bit hazy though, especially where domestic partnerships and civil unions are concerned.


According to statistics, more than 3,000 same-sex couples have been married in SA by mid-2010. Up until 2011, it was reported by Statistics South Africa that there was a total of 3,327 civil partnerships and marriages registered under the Civil Union Act. This is good news for same-sex couples who wish to get married in South Africa, as it shows that people are accepting of the new rules and regulations.

Should you need more information regarding getting married to your partner when you immigrate to South Africa, please contact one of the specialists at NWI.

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