Malawi has moved fast to gazette the newly passed Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill, a vital step for the proposed law to come into force.
According to chief state advocate in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pacharo Kayira, the Bill was published today [Friday] in the Gazette, a week after President Peter Mutharika assented to it.
But the law, which puts the minimum marriageable age at 18 and seeks to entrench gender equality in family relationship, will not come into force until such a date named by minister responsible for gender Patricia Kaliati.
“Far from indications that the Bill came into force the day the President signed it, it is a requirement by the proposed Act that it shall come into operation at such a date as the minister shall appoint by notice published in the Gazette,” said Kayira.
He clarified the Bill could not come into effect shortly after Mutharika put pen to paper because a lot need to be done, including the establishment of the office of the Registrar of Marriages and publication of a list of potential appointees.
The Bill has been in the making since recommendations of a Special Law Commission on the Review on Marriage and Divorce were published on June 26 2006.
The minister’s comment was not immediately available when we called her to find out how far she has gone to make public the date on which the law becomes effective.
However, director of gender Peter Msefula indicated the Bill would become effective by the end of this year.
“We have not met to discuss the dates because we were waiting for our friends at the Justice Ministry to Gazette the Act, but be assured the minister will publish the notice of her appointed date soon and the law can even take effect faster than the year ends,” said Msefula.
He described as “a simple task” the establishment of the marriage registry, saying some of the listed registrars were already put in place by repealed laws that have been lumped together into the amendment Act.
The Act entails the repeal of the Marriage Act, the African Marriage (Christian Rites) Registration, the Asiatics (Marriage, Divorce and Succession) Act, the Di Act, the Married Women (Maintenance) and the Maintenance Orders Act whose stipulation it entails.
“These acts of Parliament will still be in force until the day the new Bill takes effect according to the minister’s notice,” clarified Kayira.