Legal Interracial Marriage Around the World

Legal interracial marriage

Couple in Venezuela. He’s Venezuelan and she’s half Venezuelan and half Filipina.

Ever the globe trotter and world-focused (as opposed to American-focused) person I am, I have long been curious about legal interracial marriage around the world.

Interracial couples and multiracial families all over the United States are gearing up to celebrate Loving Day. Loving Day honors Mildred and Richard Loving whose interracial marriage landed them in a Virginia jail, a fight which they took all the way to the United State Supreme Court and won! By winning, laws immediately changed from interracial marriage being left up to states to decide to being legal nationwide.

It’s a pretty special Loving Day this year as it marks 50 years since anti-misceginiation laws were banned nationwide. As a result, Loving Day celebrations should be cooler than normal this year. Seeing flyers of Loving Festivals, listening to podcasts (such as my partner Alex’s with Jerald White, founder of the New Orleans Loving Festival) and just the overall chatter within the Multiracial Community has once again piqued my curiosity about legal interracial marriage around the world.

The Necessity in Addressing Legal Interracial Marriage Both Within the United States and Around the World

There are many—living in the United States in particular—who don’t feel it’s up to the government to decide who can marry whom. Fortunately for children who are the products of both interracial marriage and marriage between two people of the same sex, many governments disagree with this line of thinking. Why is it necessary for governments to intervene? Because it’s not up to anyone to decide whom a person can—or more importantly, can’t—marry.

Creating laws that prevent person of x race from marrying person from y race doesn’t deter interracial relationships, it just creates more children born out of wedlock and more people breaking archaic laws. And while I have no particular feelings about people having kids without being married, I don’t think people should be forced to be in this situation.

South Africa Addressed Legal Interracial Marriage

Outside the United States, the biggest and most notable one has to be South Africa. A history of segregation that was written into its constitution, the treatment of Black and Colored / Coloured people has been, believe it or not, worse than PoC in the United States. And while referring to PoC in the U.S. as colored is considered on par with calling us a racial slur, in South Africa it’s different. The Coloured people of South Africa are the offspring of interracial relationships. Not Black, not White, somewhere in this netherworld, but ironically the majority within the country.

Since the Dutch began colonizing South Africa in 1652 (thanks to the discovery that both gold and diamonds were in abundance there), the minority people from Holland have been brutal toward Black South Africans. For a history lesson on this brutal treatment, I suggest you do some research. The slaughter of millions—including children—is well documented.

An outgrowth of the Dutch colonizing South Africa would obviously be the birth of many coloured children. To understand more about the process of going from colonizing a region to the birth of many multiracial kids to glorying the beauty standards of the mother country, you can refer to my last Sarah’s World Beat.

With coloured children running amok (said with all the sarcasm I can muster), in 1949 South Africa passed the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, which made marriage between Whites and non-Whites illegal. The Population Registration Act of 1950 made it legal to segregate Whites from non-Whites.

So not only was interracial marriage illegal, but any offspring the result of an interracial relationship in South African meant living with one or the other parent. In most cases it meant living with the non-White parent. Both bans were lifted in 1985. Regular contributor Maja Dēzlović explains what this was like for her, being half Black South African and half Croatian in her Stages of Being Biracial.

In speaking with Nosheen Yousaf, who’s studying at the Forman Christian College University in Lahore, Pakistan and writing her thesis on the representation of  miscegenation in literature in South Africa, she explains that the irony about legal interracial marriage in South Africa is that …”it was legal in the Times of the Dutch White men in the fifteenth century with the native women … as it balanced the shortage of female settlers … South Africa presents an anomaly on the historical time line as far as interracial marriage was concerned … colonialism and later apartheid accentuated the Black-White divide.”

Other Countries That Have Addressed Legal Interracial Marriage

Germany’s Ban on Legal Interracial Marriage Lifted

As part of the Nuremberg Laws, in 1935, Nazi Germany created an anti-miscegenation law. As Adolf Hitler had a bug up his ass to keep Germany free of Jews, Gypsies, gays and others, the anti-miscegenation laws were enacted to keep so-called Aryans from marrying and making babies with non-Aryans. The laws were very complicated, and included clauses about whether the man or woman was German or Jewish (in particular) or a Gypsy.

In 1945 when Nazi Germany was defeated, these laws were repealed and any relationships between Germans and Jews could have their wedding day retroactively dated back to before the laws were enacted.

Canada’s Complicated Relationship With First Nations Impacts Legal Interracial Marriage

Although the Canadian government never created anti-miscegenation laws between White people and First Nations (Natives and considered the PoC, given how poorly they’re treated), there are instances of First Nations either banning outright or creating restrictions on marriage between a First Nations and a White Canadian. These restrictions, like those under Nazi Germany, vary depending whether the First Nations person is the husband or the wife. Patriarchal indeed!

Have I missed any countries that once had anti-miscegenation laws on the books that later repealed them and made legal interracial marriage the law of the land?



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