The Civil Unions Act 17 of 2006


Following the adoption of The Civil Unions Act 17 of 2006 (“Act”) which applies from the 30th November 2006, South Africa became one of a small group of Countries to recognise and confer legal protection and marital benefits between same sex partners.

The purpose of this Act is to provide for the formalisation of Civil Unions in terms of either a marriage or a civil partnership with subsequent legal consequences of Civil Unions.

The Objectives Of The Act

The objectives of the Act is the regulation of the solemnisation and registrations process of Civil Unions, in terms of a marriage or a civil partnership and to provide for the legal consequences of the solemnisation and registration of Civil Union.

Relationships To Which The Act Applies

This Act applies to Civil Union partners joint in a Civil Union and subject to this Act, a designated Marriage Officer has all the powers, responsibilities and duties as conferred upon him or her under the Marriage Act, to solemnise a Civil Union. It should be noted that a Marriage Officer cannot be compelled to solemnise a Civil Union.

Prohibition Of Solemnisation Of Civil Union Without Pruduction Of Identity Document Or Prescribed Affidavit

No Marriage Officer may solemnise a Civil Union unless both parties produce either their identity documents or the prescribed affidavit.

The Requirements For The Registration Of A Civil Union Is The Following:

  • A person may only be a spouse or partner in one marriage or civil partnership, as the case may be, at any given time.
  • A person in an existing Civil Union may not conclude a marriage under the Marriage Act or a Customary Marriages Act.
  • A person who is married under the Marriage Act or the Customary Marriages Act may not register a Civil Union.
  • A prospective Civil Union partner who has previously been married under the marriage Act or customary marriages Act, or registered as a spouse in a marriage or a partner in a civil partnership under this Act, must present a certified copy of the Divorce Order, or Death Certificate of the former spouse or partner, as the case may be, to the Marriage Officer as proof that the previous marriage or Civil Union has been terminated.
  • The Marriage Officer may not proceed with the solemnisation and registration of the Civil Union unless in possession of the relevant documentation as required by the Act.
  • A Civil Union may only be registered by prospective Civil Union partners who would, apart from the fact that they are of same sex, not be prohibited by law from concluding the marriage under the Marriages Act or Customary Marriages Act.

Registration Of A Civil Union

  • The prospective Civil Union partners must individually and in writing declare their willingness to enter into the Civil Union with one another by signing the prescribed document in the presence of two witnesses.
  • The Marriage Officer and two witnesses must sign the prescribed document to certify that the declaration was made in their presence.
  • The Marriage Officer must issue the partners to the Civil Union with a registration certificate stating that they have, under this Act, entered into a marriage or a civil partnership.
  • The certificate contemplated in the sub section above is prima facie proof that a valid Civil Union exists between the partners referred to in the certificate.
  • Each Marriage Officer must keep a record of all Civil Unions conducted by him or her.
  • The Marriage Officer must transmit the Civil Union register and records concerned to the official and the public service with the delegated responsibility for the population register in the area in question.
  • Upon receipt of said register the official must cause the particulars of the Civil Union concerned to be included in the population register in accordance with the provisions of section 8(e) of the Identification Act.

Legal Consequences Of Civil Union

The legal consequences of a marriage contemplated in the Marriage Act apply, with such changes as may be required by the context, to a Civil Union. With the exception of the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriages Act, any reference to: - a marriage in any other law, including the common law, includes, with such changes as may be required by the context, a Civil Union; and the husband, wife or spouse in any other law, including the common law, includes a civil union partner.

Martin Vermaak



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