South Africa's system of dispute resolution forums: The role of the family and the state in customary marriage dissolution

Event type: 
Date and time: 
Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 -
13:00 to 14:00
Kirsty Button (Masters student, Sociology)
CSSR Seminar Room 4.29 Level 4 Leslie Social Science Building Upper Campus
Abstract / Description: 

In being a legal pluralist state, South Africa has a system of state and customary dispute resolution forums. This paper is concerned with this system of dispute resolution forums, particularly in how marital disputes relating to the dissolution of customary marriages are mediated and resolved. It is demonstrated, through drawing upon data collected for the purposes of a larger research project, that there are serious shortcomings which exist within this system. Such shortcomings include the operation of structural constraints which limit women in their ability to access state dispute resolution forums for support in marital breakdown and the availability of some customary dispute resolution forums which appear to be under-utilised by couples experiencing marital breakdown. Another possible shortcoming within the abovementioned system is the insufficient assistance that is offered by the state, to married couples experiencing marital conflict and breakdown. The paper argues that these shortcomings prevent equitable outcomes in marital conflict and breakdown from being reached. Consequently, such shortcomings contribute to women being rendered economically vulnerable upon the dissolution of their customary marriages as they are often left to deal with marital conflict and breakdown in the context of unequal power relations which exist between spouses. The paper concludes by discussing possible solutions that could be adopted to rectify the shortcomings and help ensure that gender equality is achieved upon the dissolution of customary marriages