While South Africa’s marriage laws may in the near future allow women to marry more than one man (polyandry), just as polygamous men can have many wives, there is still uncertainty about the concept.

Legalizing polyandry is one of the far-reaching proposals in the Green Paper on Marriage. The country’s Interior Ministry released the landmark 67-page policy document this week.

In the document, the ministry stressed that it wants to create a new marriage law that would allow everyone in the country to enter into recognized, legal marriages.

A few types of marriages in the country are not recognized, and on the other hand, the marriage law is not considered to promote equality.

Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian marriages are not recognized by South African law, and the Green Book also makes suggestions for their recognition.

“In addition, activists have argued that equality requires that polyandry be recognized by law as a form of marriage,” the document states.

Polyandry and polygamy emerged as some of the controversial issues during the ministerial dialogues.

Traditional leaders were among those who spoke out against polyandry, calling it an “unacceptable practice” because it was not African in origin, the document said.

“Ironically, stakeholders who believed in the practice of polygamy (polygyny) were against the practice of polyandry,” the department commented.

The public has until the end of June to comment on the department’s proposals.

The Interior Department said it is aware that its process will ruffle feathers, but maintained that the changes are necessary.

“This is the beginning of a crucial public discourse that will redefine the concept of marriage in South Africa,” it said.

“The process will bring to light issues that may make some of us uncomfortable, but it will foster dialogue within the South African and international community.”