3 Safar 1439 AH • 24 October 2017

Muslim marriage case back in court

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On Monday, the Western Cape High court will hear arguments from the Women’s Legal Centre, the State, and interested parties on whether the failure to recognise Muslim marriages discriminates against women. The failure to recognise Muslim marriages has been the subject of a more than a decade law reform process.

The WLC launched its application to compel the South African Government to give recognition to Muslim personal law, including Muslim marriages and the consequences arising therefrom. However, the argument on the merits of the matter will not proceed on Monday.

“The Judge President has ordered the consolidation of a further matter pending before the High Court which similarly highlights the plight of Muslim women. There are several matters that are pending at a number of courts across the country. This is testament to the fact that Muslim women are struggling to assert their rights because their Muslim marriages and the consequences arising therefrom are not legally recognised. They have no option but to plead their cases with the courts and the judiciary,” said the WLC in a statement.

Given the importance of the matter three judges have now been appointed to hear the matter.
A direction hearing is to be convened on Monday at 10 am at the Western Cape High Court to regulate the further conduct of the matter.

The WLC has over the years experienced a keen interest in the development of this matter due to the profound impact it has on the families and the lives of thousands of Muslim women and because of the number of Muslim women that turn to the WLC for assistance for themselves and their children.

The WLC launched the application in December 2014. The hearing of this application has since then been postponed several times. Even whilst this matter is pending Muslim women continue to approach the WLC for assistance. Many women are left without recourse and until this case is finalised are waiting in anticipation.

“This case will provide direction to the Legislature, the Muslim communities, the lawyers who are at times powerless to assist clients, civil society and stakeholders that deal with family matters. It will bring certainty as to the legal status of parties to marriages solemnised under Islam and provide safety for children of Muslim marriages at the time such marriages are terminated,” said the WLC.

Hundreds of women are expected to join the Women’s Legal Centre in solidarity at the court. VOC

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