Judge Siraj Desai has ruled that Parliament has 24 months to put Muslim personal law into legislation. Judge Siraj made the ruling in the Western Cape High Court shortly after 10h00 on Friday morning. The Women’s Legal Centre filed an application for the recognition of Muslim marriages in 2014. Following public comment, the Muslim Marriages Bill was drafted. The bill is aimed at providing Muslim women and their children with legal protection upon divorce. A draft bill was completed in 2003 and later published in 2011.
The Judge ordered that legislation be passed to recognize Muslim marriages as valid marriages and “to regulate the consequences of such recognition.”
The legal centre’s Seehaam Samaai welcomed the judge’s ruling and says the judgement showed that the state has failed to promote, protect and fulfill its obligation to Muslim women.
Samaai explained that if the state does not draft legislation to protect the rights of Muslim women within 24 months, the order will effectively become the status quo of how Muslim marriages should be regulated.
The court indicated that women in existing marriages will be protected under the legislation. The matter is currently suspended and is expected to go to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) welcomed the judgement.
In a statement released on Friday, MJC second deputy president shaykh Riad Fataar said legislation protecting the rights of Muslims within the country is long overdue.
“It is an opportunity, President [Cyril] Ramaphosa, to make a mark in history and recognize the Muslim community in their marriages, which is so long overdue.”
Judge Desai granted costs in favour of the Women’s Legal Centre.