This day in history: The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act commences

This day in history: The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act commences

On this day in 1949, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act that banned marriage or a sexual relationship between white people and people of other race groups in South Africa was passed. The law was introduced by the apartheid government as part of its overall policy of separateness.

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Mixed race relationships occurred in South Africa as far back as 1652, and often took place between Dutch colonizers and indigenous South African women. Mixed marriages did not become completely taboo until the rise of the National Party in 1948.

South Africans were required to register as members of one of four races as set out in the Population Registration Act of 1950. These four groups were White, Coloured, Indian and Black.

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The apartheid government then criminalised marriages between people of different racial groups. Enforcement of the act was left to the police, who often followed people to their homes to ensure they were not in violation and raided the homes of those believed to be in a mixed marriage. The punishment for people found to be in a mixed marriage involved arrest and a jail sentence. Anyone who knowingly officiated a marriage that violated the act was fined.

Any interracial marriages that occurred outside the country were nullified by the South African law.

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It was eventually repealed in 1985 by the Immorality and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act that allowed interracial marriages and relationships. It was passed during the presidency of P. W. Botha.

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