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No, a daughter did not marry her mother in South Africa

A young woman in South Africa married her own mother, claims a message circulating on Facebook in Nigeria since 10 September 2020.

It includes a photo of two women holding hands and dressed in white at what appears to be their wedding.

The message says Lolita, a 26-year-old South African woman, married her 44-year-old mother Loretta, who had raised her alone. Most versions include supposed quotes by the two women.

Lolita is quoted as saying: “My mum was there for me since I was born. I grew up without having a father and I love my mum so much. She is all I have and I don’t want to stay away from her that’s why I chose to marry her so we can live together. She’s young and knows how to make me happy in bed.”

Loretta supposedly said: “My daughter was ready to leave the house if I refuse to marry her, I love her so much and will do anything to make her happy.”

The 20 or so versions of the message Africa Check has seen have been viewed a total of 100,000 or so times since it first appeared.

Did a South African mother and daughter get married? We checked.

Photo six years old, used to celebrate gay weddings

A TinEye reverse image search reveals that the photo has been online since at least 2014. It has mainly been used on websites celebrating same-sex marriages.

The UK-based website Gay Wedding Venues published the photo under the header “Gay wedding inspiration”. No information is given on who the women are or when the photo was taken.

We could find no evidence that the couple in the photo are South African or are mother and daughter. 

Story first published on often-debunked Zambian Observer

The first indication that the story may be false is that it contains no information on where or when this wedding supposedly took place, making it difficult to verify. 

The story originally appeared on the Zambian Observer website on 27 May 2017. This version claims that the mother is named “Loreto” and that the ceremony took place in Cape Town. The Zambian Observer published the story again on 7 October 2020 with no acknowledgement of its prior publication and no updates (including the couple’s ages), making the story appear new.

Africa Check has debunked several false and sometimes outrageous stories published by the Zambian Observer

The story reappeared on the Nigerian website National Daily Newspaper on 10 September 2020 – the day the message started circulating on Facebook. This version refers to the mother as “Loretta” and uses the same photo as the Facebook message. Again, no details on when or where the wedding took place are provided.

We could find no evidence of any South African media outlets or reputable news sources reporting this story.

Incestuous marriages illegal in South Africa

The South African Civil Union Act of 2006 recognises same-sex civil unions, giving gay couples the same marital rights and status as heterosexual couples. 

But South African law prohibits people who are directly related – parents and their children or siblings, including adoptees and their adoptive parents – from being legally married. Such a union is recognised as a criminal offence under Section 12 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007.

The marriage described in the Facebook message would be illegal under South African law. It is also unlikely that an incestuous couple would have spoken to and allowed their wedding to be covered by news outlets, knowing that they could be prosecuted under the law. 

There is no evidence that a mother and daughter were married in South Africa. The story dates back to 2017, seems to have originated on an untrustworthy website and uses a six-year-old photo. The details in different versions of the story are inconsistent, and such a union would be illegal in South Africa. – Naledi Mashishi


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