Sisters should be savvy about splitting up
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) and , well-known family law specialist Nthabiseng Mon-areng, are calling on women in customary marriages and cohabitation relationships to register their unions to protect themselves from ending up with nothing should the relationships end.
Monareng, author of the book A Simple Guide to South African Family Law, said thousands of women have lost out on what they are entitled to because of their ignorance of the law.
"Many women get into relationships, be it marriage or vat-en-sit, and don't look at the legal aspects governing that relationship. It is important that people understand the legal consequences that come with that relationship," she said.
Monareng said most women in customary marriages don't know that they have to register the marriage within three months after ilobolo and other rituals have been finalised.
While non-registration does not make the marriage illegal, a person cannot claim what is due to him or her without a marriage certificate, said Monareng.
"Just in December, a woman who had been living with her common-law husband for five years lost everything she had worked hard for after her husband married another woman and kicked her out of the house.
"Had she registered her marriage, the second marriage wouldn't have taken place because Home Affairs would have picked up that the person was already married," said Monareng.
"A marriage certificate would have entitled the first woman to claim from her spouse's estate what she was entitled to."
Powa councillor Priscilla Matsapola said it was for this reason that the organisation had joined forces with Monareng to educate women about their rights.
Matsapola said there had been an increase in the number of women losing out on what was legally theirs when the marriage or relationship dissolved because many are unaware of their rights within those relationships.
Matsapola said since the beginning of the year Powa has been inundated with calls from women complaining that they had been evicted after relationships had ended.
"Most of these women are living with their male partners and others are married in terms of customary law but their marriages are not registered.
"As a result, during conflicts some men evict their partners and most of them get away with it because they know their partners will find it difficult to challenge them in court," said Matsapola.
"The time has come for women to take control of their lives and educate themselves."
Monareng advises women to draw up a contract stipulating who gets what in the event of a break-up to avoid conflicts that are complicated by the involvement of in-laws.
"Without a contract, many women end up losing their possessions. At times in-laws come in and claim everything.
"Women should keep receipts as proof of what they have purchased during the relationship. Without the contract or marriage certificate, women are almost always fighting a losing battle," warned Monareng.
l Monareng's book provides legal information for individuals entering into, and terminating marriages and other relationships. The book gives steps and procedures to be followed in the event of a dispute.
To order the book, which sells for R120, call Monareng on 083- 674-8236. It will be sold for R100 to the first 100 Sowetan readers who order it. The offer is valid until end of February.