Muslim marriages must be declared legally valid, court hears

2017-08-29 12:31
Muslim women gather outside the entrance of the Western Cape High Court in a silent protest with regard to Muslim marraiges being declared legally valid in the country. (Jana Breytenbach, Netwerk24)

Muslim women gather outside the entrance of the Western Cape High Court in a silent protest with regard to Muslim marraiges being declared legally valid in the country. (Jana Breytenbach, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Room 18 of the Western Cape High Court was packed with advocates on Monday in an attempt to make the first day of the two-week-long case related to Muslim marriages proceed smoothly.

A class action suit is being brought in an attempt to redress the injustices of the apartheid era before 1994 with regard to Islam and Muslim marriages, said Advocate Nazreen Bawa, who is representing the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC).

She told Netwerk24 the initial case was submitted to the Constitutional Court in 2009 and has been heard in several courts countrywide since.

Bawa asked that Muslim marriages be declared legally valid in South Africa. The WLC also appealed to the president to admit that he is failing in his duties with regard to the religion’s marriage laws and that he should change them.

Judges Siraj Desai, Gayaat Salie-Hlophe and Nolwazi Boqwana are hearing the case.

The difference, said Bawa, comes in when a couple gets married. In terms of the Constitution, a judicial officer must marry a couple. If there is no marriage contract, the couple is automatically married in community of property.

In Islam, the couple is married by an imam, who isn’t necessarily a judicial officer. The couple is automatically married out of community of property, with the result that women don’t have the same rights as others.

Bawa added that legal steps should be taken to ensure equity between partners, as well as the rights of children when civil or common law marriages fail.

These rights don't exist in Muslim marriages.

Bawa argued that the president as well as several government departments should promulgate these rights into law.

"Despite the fact that there have been several changes with regard to family law, Muslim marriages still fall outside the definition of a legal marriage."

Bawa said they didn't want to interfere with Islam and were also not asking the court to do so.

The case continues.

Read more on:    cape town  |  courts  |  culture  |  religion

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