Since the most recent court application by the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), calling on the President Jacob Zuma to enact the Muslim Marriage Bill into law within in no later than a year, the dispute around how this will impact the Muslim society within the country has intensified.
The application has been postponed to June. In the meantime, WLC has encouraged women to come forward with their stories, to prove to the court that this particular framework is needed.
In an interview with VOC News, WLC attorney, Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said the women’s rights centre does not sought to discredit Shariah Law but rather seeks to provide a legal framework within the Muslim marriages that can secure the rights of women in situations such as divorce or abuse.
“There is no consequences flowing from the relationship that women had with their husband in cases of divorce. This has implications in terms of inheritance, pensions, maintenance etc,” Abrahams-Fayker explained.
“The fact that women can now register their marriage is not a new option, the marriage act has always made provision for this. However, in the past, Islamic clergy identified that this particular registration was only allowed for one women and one man and in Islam, men are allowed more than one wife. So they [Islamic clergy] had made a conscious decision to not register the marriages.”
Abrahams-Fayker explained that the centre does not want to get involved with religious law but from a constitutional point of view, women should have the right to marry legally and in terms of their religion.
“That is what we are arguing for,” Abrahams-Fayker said.
In addition to this, the WLC believes the content of the bill needs to be aligned with the constitution but also identifys the requirements of Muslim personal law, which is ultimately the decision of the legislature through input of interested parties. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)