South Africa’s National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL), which represents traditional and customary leaders, has come out against same-sex unions. The position follows the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court that barring same-sex couple from marriage is unconstitutional. The court gave the legislature 12 months to change the relevant laws to allow for these marriages.

In a statement issued last week, after its two-day national annual conference, the NHTL said that it was “generally disappointed that this immoral practice has been given a lifeline by our courts”.

The statement also said, “that the practice of same sex marriages is against most of African beliefs, cultures, customs and traditions and this in turn goes against the mandate of traditional leaders which is to promote and protect the customs of communities observing a system of customary law… it does not fulfil the notion of marriage in African culture as only a man can pay lobola for a woman”.

It also expressed concern for same-sex couples who chose to get married. “We are of the belief that… this will cause same-sex married couples to be ostracised which… might lead to victimisation and violence,” said the statement.

The ruling by the constitutional court only affects the legal definition and recognition of marriage and does not compel religious authorities to perform same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, the National House of Traditional Leaders has said that it intends to ensure that the ruling also does not impact its customary marriage traditions.

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