The constitutional family: developments in South African family law and jurisprudence under the 1996 Constitution
Van Heerden, Belinda
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The article reviews the process of liberalization of child and family law that has occurred since the adoption of South Africa's 1996 Constitution. Although the Constitution does not expressly protect the right to family life, the principles of dignity, equality and concern for the vulnerability of marginalized groups in society have heralded a wide‐ranging revision of the legal meaning of family, of how the law should protect family members, and is reshaping the understanding of relationships between family members (including children). Developments in areas such as domestic violence, custody allocation upon divorce, the growing recognition of same sex partnerships, religious and customary marriages, and the rights and status of illegitimate children in both civil and customary law are discussed. The article suggests that these piecemeal judicial and statutory reforms may result in a potentially dangerous proliferation of legally recognized family forms. At the same time, the difficulties of multiculturalism and religious diversity in the family law arena in South Africa are highlighted.