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World Divorce News
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December 1, 2009: South Africa reveals new marriage, divorce statistics

by Jeffrey Cottrill

PRETORIA -- A new report from Statistics South Africa indicates some of the country's recent trends in marriage and divorce. While the number of civil marriages increased in South Africa over 2008 and the number of divorces decreased over the same period, there were still nearly 17% more divorces in the nation in 2008 than there were ten years before.

The report, titled Marriages and Divorces: 2008, was released on November 24. The study makes a distinction between "civil" and "customary" marriages in its data. A civil marriage is one created in a ceremony by an official marriage officer, such as a priest or magistrate, whereas a customary marriage is one that has been conducted according to traditional indigenous African law without any other religious rites.

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Among the findings: there were 186,522 civil weddings in South Africa in 2008, 52% of which used civil rites and 34% of which were religious ceremonies. This is an increase from 183,030 during the previous year. There were 16,003 customary marriages the same year (down from 20,259 in 2007) and 732 registered civil unions (up from 80).

South Africa recorded 28,924 divorces in 2008, a 2.4% decrease from the 2007 total. About 43% of these cases ended marriages originally solemnized by civil rites, while nearly half of them were marriages based on religious rites. Of the divorces, 10,110 involved African couples, and 9,481 were Caucasian couples.

On average, a South African divorce occurs after nine years of marriage. There were 159 couples who divorced after being married for about 40 years, and 55 of the divorcees were octogenarians.

In spite of the short-term decrease in divorces, there has still been a significant overall increase since 1999. South Africa "may be the easiest country to get divorced in," Peter Baker, a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, told Johannesburg newspaper The Times on Sunday, pointing out that the nation has no mandatory waiting period. "It can take ten days."

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