On Monday a full bench of the Western Cape High Court began hearing arguments from the state, the Women’s Legal Centre and other stakeholders on whether the failure to recognize Muslim marriages in fact discriminates against women. This as the Women’s Legal Centre some three years ago took the South African Government to court for failing to pass legislation that will give recognition to Muslim marriages.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, director of the Women’s Legal Centre, Seehaam Samaai explains the case was tabled because women who are married according to exclusively under Islamic rights are not protected under the law. Given delay in reform, the centre decided to litigate on the matter.
She says that despite extensive discussion around the issue, Government has done little to mitigate the impact that divorce or the death of a spouse has in the lives of women married exclusively within the bounds of shariah.
“The problem that we have is that if persons marry according to Muslim rights there are challenges in the dissolution of those marriages.”
She explains that the centre will be asking the court to afford women, as well as children born into these marriages, protection upon the dissolution of the marriages.
“In the past 20 years the women’s legal centre has brought in numerous advocacy strategies to ensure that there is some form of protection for Muslim women when there is a divorce or upon the death of their partners.”
Nine respondents, including the President, Home Affairs and National Assembly, will respond in the matter, which will span over the next two weeks, ending on September 8.
In addition, a number of groups, in the capacity of friends of the court, will be making submissions in the matter.
“In addition to those, there are seven friends of the court, including the Commission to Gender Equality, the Jamiat, the Cape Law Society, and the South African Lawyers for Change.”
On Tuesday, the Women’s Legal Centre continues with its arguments.
Outside the court, a number of women from as far as Malmesbury convened to support the call for the recognition of Muslim women.
“The non-recognition of Muslim marriages has consequences, that is why we are all here,” Samaai adds.
The matter will be heard by Judges Siraj Desai, Gayaat Salie-Hlophe and Judge Nolwazi Bokwana. The arguments will be tabled from Monday, 28 August, until Friday 8 September, 2017.