Marriage Bill ‘big step for Muslims’

2009-04-21 00:00

Members of the Muslim community should not fear that the Muslim Marriage Bill will interfere with their customary laws. This was said yesterday at a Gift of the Givers workshop on the Muslim Marriage Bill held in Pietermaritzburg.

Murinah Osman-Hyder, a lecturer in the law faculty at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told the workshop the bill is a big step, not just for women’s rights, but for the rights of Muslims in general.

Osman-Hyder said Muslim women have no legal rights in their marriages or in the event of a divorce.

“This bill will ensure that both spouses are recognised as equal in human dignity and financial independence,” she said.

Osman-Hyder said the bill will also regulate polygamy by requiring that existing spouses be included in the proceedings in the event that a husband wants to take another wife.

In South Africa, Muslim marriages are not recognised in law, but the bill, if enacted as law, would provide for their recognition and enforcement.

An application was made last year to the Constitutional Court by the Women’s Legal Centre to fast-track the bill into Parliament.

The government refused to hasten the process, arguing that it is too soon to table the bill and it needs to follow procedure.

But Hyder said that argument was invalid because efforts to get Muslim marriages recognised in the courts have been made since 1990 to no avail.

Should the bill become law, it will not be mandatory — spouses will have to register to have it apply to their marriages.

The Constitutional Court will make a ruling next month on the application made by the Women’s Legal Centre.

The workshop was broadcast on Channel Islam, a satellite Muslim radio station.

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