Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, Act No. 55 of 1949, was an apartheid law in South Africa that prohibited marriages between "whites" and "non-whites". It was among the first pieces of apartheid legislation to be passed following the National Party's rise to power in 1948. Subsequent legislation, especially the Population Registration and Immorality Acts of 1950, facilitated its implementation by requiring all individuals living in South Africa to register as a member of one of four officially defined racial groups and prohibiting extramarital sexual relationships between those classified as "white" on the one hand and those classified as "non-White" (Blacks, Coloureds, later also Asians) on the other. It did not criminalize sexual relationships between those classified as "Blacks", "Coloureds", and "Asians".

Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949
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Parliament of South Africa
  • Act to prohibit marriages between "white and black people, and to provide for matters incidental thereto.
CitationAct No. 55 of 1949
Enacted byParliament of South Africa
Royal assent1 July 1949
Commenced8 July 1949
Repealed19 June 1985
Amended by
Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act, 1968
Repealed by
Immorality and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act, 1985
Related legislation
Immorality Act
Status: Repealed



Mixed race relationships occurred in South Africa as far back as 1652, and often took place between Dutch colonizers and indigenous South African women.[1] Mixed marriages did not become completely taboo until the rise of the National Party in 1948.[2]  However, in the years immediately preceding the passing of this Act, mixed marriages accounted for just a small fraction of all marriages in South Africa, and occurred almost evenly between the four defined racial groups (Black, Coloured, White, and Asiatic).[3]


It was implemented in 1951, 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 act applied to all mixed marriages between South Africans, so even marriages which took place in another country were not recognized within South Africa.[4] 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 also subject to a punishment: a fine was imposed not exceeding 50 pounds.[4] Anyone who was found to have lied to an officiant was also subject to the legal punishment for perjury.[4]

Some of the social consequences of entering into a mixed-race marriage included being ostracized from or ridiculed by one's family and community.[2] One example is a white South African sex worker named Ethal, who indicated that she felt more accepted by her peers when she was a sex worker than when she married a black African man.[2]

Legislative historyEdit

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act of 1968 updated the original legislation to invalidate interracial marriages involving a South African citizen that were contracted in other countries.

The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act was repealed by the Immorality and Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Amendment Act, 1985, which was passed during the presidency of P. W. Botha.[5]

Immorality amendment Act ,1950Edit


  1. ^ van den Berghe, Pierre L. (1960). "Miscegenation in South Africa". Cahiers d'Études Africaines. 1 (4): 68–84. doi:10.3406/cea.1960.3680. JSTOR 4390778.
  2. ^ a b c JACOBSON, CARDELL K.; AMOATENG, ACHEAMPONG YAW; HEATON, TIM B. (2004). "Inter-racial Marriages in South Africa". Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 35 (3): 443–458. doi:10.3138/jcfs.35.3.443. JSTOR 41603948.
  3. ^ Sofer, Cyril (1949). "Some Aspects of Inter-Racial Marriages in South Africa, 1925-46". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 19 (3): 187–203. doi:10.2307/1156969. JSTOR 1156969.
  4. ^ a b c kyle (2016-02-22). "Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, Act No 55 of 1949". South African History Online. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  5. ^ Johnson, Shaun (1989). South Africa: no turning back. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35395-5.

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