FasRU publication update

Elena Moore has published an article in Agenda, as part of a special issue on Intersectionality. The article, “Centring the intersection of race, class, and gender when a customary marriage ends” was co-authored by Prof. Chuma Himonga, the NRF Chair in Customary Law, Indigenous Values and Human Rights. The article is available here, and the abstract is below:


Based on an empirical study of marital dissolution, this article explores the race, class, and gender dimensions of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (120 of 1998) (RCMA). Drawing on data from court (divorce) files and semi-structured interviews, it provides an intersectional critique of the laws for customary wives who seek to regulate marital dissolution through both judicial and extra-judicial systems. The article focuses specifically on the financial consequences of the dissolution of a customary marriage, one of the main criticisms of the Act. The RCMA was supposed to improve the entitlements of women in customary marriages; however, this study found that in practice the law is of little use to most poor, rural-based black South African women whose lives are far removed from any interaction with the state or norms generated by it. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, the rhetoric of rights and the provision of rights overlook the failure of the state to assist individuals in claiming the rights, and secondly, the strong belief held by divorcees and traditional leaders that marital assets belong to the husband (and husband’s family or the marital family as it pertains to children) leads to resistance to an equal division of marital assets. The authors argue that a more dedicated and systematic effort which uses intersectionality in thinking about institutional transformation is required to curb financial exploitation upon the dissolution of a customary marriage.