A Duty of Support for All South African Unmarried Intimate Partners Part I: The Limits of the Cohabitation and Marriage Based Models
The democratic Constitutional dispensation has led to the gradual extension of spousal duties of support to unmarried couples who hitherto could not legally claim support from their partners or from third parties who had unlawfully caused the death of their partners. The new recipients of rights to support can be divided into three groups: wives in Muslim religious marriages, partners in same-sex intimate relationships and unmarried opposite sex cohabitants whose relationships closely resemble civil marriage in both form and function. However, certain distinctive features of customary marriage, the continuing consequences of apartheid policies for African families and certain distinctive patrilineal features of traditional African families have largely excluded African women – who constitute the largest and most economically vulnerable group of women – from the benefits of these developments. Part one of this two-part article analyses the trajectory of the developing right to support intimate partnerships which appear to be based either on marriage (in the case of Muslim marriages) or relationships similar to marriage, including monogamy and permanent co-residence in the case of same-sex and opposite sex partners. This leaves no room to extend rights to unmarried intimate partners whose relationships do not fit the template of civil marriage and, in particular, excludes many disadvantaged African women from obtaining legal rights to support from their relationships.
Keywords: African women; duty of support; maintenance; unmarried opposite sex partners; same-sex partners; Muslim marriage; customary law.