Spouses have no right to sleep together at shelters - SCA

Bloemfontein – The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein on Wednesday set aside a judgement by the South Gauteng High Court stating that certain rules of an urban shelter, including the sleeping arrangements of couples, were constitutionally invalid.

The High Court had ruled that some rules of an overnight shelter infringed the residence's constitutional rights to dignity, freedom and security of person.

The SCA said while husbands and wives and permanent life partners had a constitutional right to live together, they do not always have the right to sleep together.

"There are instances in which this right must yield, albeit temporarily, to broader practical demands such as those related to the reason for which the Shelter was designed. In context, the provision of temporary accommodation separated on the basis of gender, is not unreasonable and therefore not unconstitutional," the court said.

"The SCA found that the rules of [Metropolitan Evangelical Services] in the shelter offered by the City, in an attempt to accommodate the occupiers in an emergency situation are not, in themselves, unreasonable and that the appeal must succeed."

According to the shelter's other rules, residents cannot enter the premises after 20:00 and they have to sign a register every night. All residents are required to vacate the shelter by 08:00, Monday to Friday, and at 09:00 on Saturdays and Sundays.

The residents had originally been evicted from a dilapidated building on Saratoga Avenue, Berea, Johannesburg. The City of Johannesburg then asked Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES) to house them after the Constitutional Court had ordered the city to provide the evictees with temporary accommodation.

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