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Press Release: Min­is­ter responds to unau­tho­rised change of women’s sur­names after mar­riage

For Imme­di­ate Release: 24 March 2017

 

In Sep­tem­ber 2016, through an online sur­vey, the Legal Resources Cen­tre (LRC) was approached by a num­ber of women whose sur­names had been altered on the National Pop­u­la­tion Reg­is­ter fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of their mar­riages, even though they had expressly informed the mar­riage offi­cer or Depart­ment of Home Affairs Offi­cials that they wanted to retain their sur­name.

 

On 15 March 2017, the LRC met with the Deputy Direc­tor Gen­eral of Home Affairs (Civic Ser­vices), Mr Vusi Mhk­ize, on the instruc­tion of the Deputy Min­is­ter of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan. The DDG con­firmed that the Deputy Min­is­ter had under­taken a review process of inter­nal sys­tems within the Depart­ment that had led to the unau­tho­rised sur­name changes.

 

The DDG con­firmed that the sur­names of those women rep­re­sented by the LRC had been amended to reflect the choice that they had made at the time of mar­riage in respect of the sur­name cur­rently reflected in the pop­u­la­tion reg­is­ter.

 

He fur­ther con­firmed that inter­nal train­ing was being under­taken to ensure that staff biases and prej­u­dice is elim­i­nated in the cap­tur­ing of infor­ma­tion on the National Pop­u­la­tion Reg­is­ter. He fur­ther advised that a new sys­tem will be imple­mented to elim­i­nate the unau­tho­rised change of sur­names, and that Direc­tives had been issued to staff in Octo­ber 2016 to ensure com­pli­ance and adher­ence with the wishes of women who enter into mar­riage, in respect of their choice of sur­name.

 

The LRC believes that the issue of women being able to choose to retain their maiden sur­names or take their spouses’ sur­name after mar­riage goes to the heart of the right to sub­stan­tive equal­ity of women, their right to dig­nity and their right to make deci­sions con­cern­ing their own iden­tity. These rights are in no way dimin­ished sim­ply because a woman has cho­sen to con­clude a mar­riage.

 

We acknowl­edge and appre­ci­ate the Deputy Minister’s will­ing­ness to engage with us on the issue and for her proac­tive engage­ment within the Depart­ment to ensure the equal rights of women in mar­riage.

 

We applaud the women who came for­ward in fight­ing for their con­sti­tu­tional rights to equal­ity, dig­nity and iden­tity, which has led to the Depart­ment of Home Affairs tak­ing steps to address this sys­tem­atic fail­ure within the Depart­ment. Their will­ing­ness to come for­ward and address the issue has not only led to their own right to equal­ity being recog­nised, but also the rights of other women in the same posi­tion.


ENDS

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