A Duty of Support for All South African Unmarried Intimate Partners Part 2: Developing Customary and Common Law and Circumventing the Volks Judgment
Part I of this two-part article argued that post-constitutional developments of the right to support have excluded the largest and most vulnerable sector of South African women – African women in invalid customary marriages and in intimate partnerships which do not resemble monogamous Western nuclear households. Part II explores the avenues to develop customary and common law to extend rights to support to these women. It argues that the current position discriminates against poor, rural African women on multiple intersecting grounds, which creates a duty for courts to develop the current legal rules. Customary law affords scope for development in relation to women in invalid customary marriages. Common law rights to support can be extended either ex contractu or ex lege. Because contractual support rights are of limited use to poor women, the legacy of the majority judgments in Volks v Robinson 2005 5 BCLR 446 (CC) (Volks) must be confronted to strengthen the legal basis for an automatic duty of support to all women in unmarried intimate relationships. The argument in Volks that, women choose to forego legal rights by not getting married is criticised. The minority judgment in Laubscher v Duplan 2017 2 SA 264 (CC) does, however, create potential for overturning this reasoning.
Keywords:Duty of support; customary law; contract; choice to marry.