5 September 2018

In two years’ time, the Muslim Marriages Bill will reportedly become law in South Africa.

This comes after a four-year legal battle to have it officially recognised ended with a ruling in the Western Cape High Court earlier this week. In the verdict, Judge Seraj Desai ordered that the president and the departments of Justice and Home Affairs enact legislation in line with his ruling.

The official judgment stated: “It is declared that a union validly concluded as a marriage in terms of Sharia Law and which subsists at the time this order becomes operative (even after its dissolution in terms of the Divorce Act 79 of 1979 and all the provisions of that Act) shall be applicable. The provisions of section 7(3) shall apply to such a union regardless of when it was concluded.”

According to News24, the application for the recognition of Muslim marriages was brought by the Women’s Legal Centre, which said it was aimed at providing Muslim women and their children with legal protection upon divorce.

Earlier this year, the Court also ruled in favour of recognising the rights of Muslim wives in polygamous marriages.

And since two years is quite a while to wait, The Divorce Act, used in civil marriages, has been ordered as interim relief for women married under Muslim rights until legislation is enacted to protect them.

But, for now, the Muslim community is celebrating this legal victory. The Muslim Judicial Council’s deputy president, Shaykh Riad Fataar said, “This is a milestone for Muslims as a minority in South Africa”.