By Melanie Nathan, July 16, 2015.
Back in April 2013, the reporting of a very special wedding story went viral as a young South African same-sex couple from Zulu and Sotho traditions held a traditional wedding ceremony to celebrate their marriage. Now, 2 years later, it is with sadness that one of the couple is announcing the divorce.
Tshepo Modisane and Thoba Sithole, both 27, at the time of their wedding at in KwaDukuza, Stanger, are divorcing on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
The importance of all marriage, is that it grants people legal rights and obligations in the relationship and so if a couple divorces, certain rights and obligations can be invoked under the law. With marriage comes a right to divorce and it is also because of these rights that marriage equality is so important.
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart to inform you that the internationally publicized marriage between me and Mr Thoba Sithole-Modisane has ceased to exist and we are no longer a going concern. I have since filed for divorce and released Mr Sithole-Modisane from his duties, responsibilities and privileges as my spouse.
The first divorce summons was issued on 25 February 2015, and I have not seen Mr Sithole-Modisane since 13 February 2015 and do not know his whereabouts. The marriage relationship has irretrievably broken down and there is no reasonable prospect of the restoration of a normal marriage relationship between us.
I have my reasons for ending the marriage relationship which I will not discuss as they are of a personal nature. Because of those reasons I have lost my love, affection and respect for Mr Sithole-Modisane and decided that I will not be proceeding with the marriage relationship.
I would like to put this chapter of my life behind me and humbly request that EVERYONE refrain from sending me Facebook messages, DMs, e-mails, phone calls or WhatsApps messages inquiring about my past marriage as I refuse to entertain them. I would like to ask for the same compassion and privacy that you would give to anyone going through a similar situation.
I would like to thank my family, friends and everyone who has supported me throughout my relationship marriage over the past 2-3 years. I still strongly believe that marriage for homosexuals is important in the struggle against prejudice and hatred in our society. Personally, I will continue to champion the struggle for equality and rights of the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed) community. Section 9 (3) of South Africa’s Constitution expressly prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The law of marriage is invoked both at moments of blissful creation and at times of sad cessation. There is nothing to suggest that same-sex couples are any less affected than are heterosexual ones by the emotional and material consequences of a rupture of their union.
Furthermore, I do not believe that all LGBTI marriages are doomed to end and fail but we should always celebrate people who take the brave step of getting married, living an honest and open life about their sexuality.
Lastly, I wish to thank Mr Thoba Sithole-Modisane for accepting my marriage proposal on 22 June 2012 and for the good times we spent together. I also wish him all the best with his life going forward and his future endeavours.
Thank you and God bless.
Mr T. C. Modisane
This wedding will still go down as one of the most significant events in South African LGBTI history, as it broke barriers in the face of the Zulu traditional chiefs, who sought to remove sexual orientation as a protected class from the South African Constitution.
There is hope that Africa as a continent can become more open by allowing to tradition to embrace all forms of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation has always included heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. Now traditionalists have an opportunity to recognize it too.
As one groom noted at the time, “Being gay is as African as being black.”
At the time of the marriage the participation by community showed that the bottom line is all about love and acceptance and even tradition has its seat at the table of evolution.
This divorce should not be seen in a negative light, but rather exalted in the sense, that while sad, it shows that same-sex couples share life’s experiences equally with the heterosexual community. The good news is that they helped break important ground, and now notwithstanding their same-sex status, South Africa affords their relationship equal treatment under the law.