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S.Africa court battle to recognise Muslim marriage

Published on 28/08/2017

A South African legal rights group on Monday took the government to court in a campaign pressing for new legislation to recognise Muslim marriages as legally valid.

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) said it was lobbying against “unfair discrimination” as South African law does not grant religious marriages the same status as civil, customary or same sex marriages.

Failure to recognise polygamous Muslim marriages causes major disadvantages to women and children when such unions break-up or end in divorce or death, the group said.

“Muslim women and children are disproportionately impacted,” Seehaam Samaai told AFP.

“We want the court to direct the government to bring in legislation framework to assist or recognise Muslim marriages.”

As the marriage is not recognised under the law, it is difficult for Muslim women to seek divorce through the courts under common law or to gain a fair share of assets, said the WLC.

The case in the High Court in Cape Town has been set down for two weeks.

Muslims in South Africa account for about three percent of the 56 million population.