Two people fell in love and we all showed up the law allowed them to marry

In the UK, 18 million people tuned in to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In a sermon that will probably go down as historic, Bishop Michael Curry declared that ‘Two people fell in love and we all showed up’. That’s true, as is the fact that UK law allows anyone 16 or over who falls in love to get married or form a civil partnership provided they’re not closely related to the person they intend to marry.

In the spirit of all things love and with an eye to the focus of this blog, it’s worth asking what the law says about two people falling in love in the two countries where Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebe does its work. Sentebe operates in Lesotho and Botswana where according to the charity’s website exists the world’s second and third highest HIV prevalence rates respectively. The charity therefore works with affected children to provide care and education.

Marriage in Lesotho is governed by the Marriage Act No. 10 of 1974. This law provides for a minimum age of marriage of 21 years, however males under the age of 18 and females under the age of 16 can get married with the written permission of a Minister. Those married under Lesetho’s customary law can formerly register their marriage. Most impressive of all, Lesotho launched the Africa Union campaign in October 2017 to end child marriage in Africa. In Botswana, marriage is governed by the Marriage Act 2001 with the minimum age of marriage being 18. Regrettably, occurrences of child marriage are still prevalent under the country’s cultural practices. Those married under customary, hindu, muslim or other customs can register their marriage within two months of getting married. However, both Lesotho and Botswana do not permit sex-same marriage.

So for any young Sotho and Tswana people dreaming to one day fall in love and get married like Prince Harry and Meghan, the law will be on their side …  as long as they’re not of the same sex.

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