Victory for women married in Muslim marriages as the court orders the state to take steps to recognize their marriages as valid
Media Release Attention: Editors, Producers and Reporters For immediate Release: 01 September 2018 Victory for women married in Muslim marriages as the court orders the state to take steps to recognize their marriages as valid Today, 31 August 2018, the Western Cape High Court, handed down judgment in the Women’s Legal Centre Trust (WLCT) v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others matters relating to the recognition of Muslim Marriages. The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) as Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) welcomes the judgement. Our intervention was in support of the case as we firmly believe that Muslim women have suffered and continues to suffer serious prejudice in marriages as a result of the state’s inaction. The CGE welcomes the judgment handed down that declared that the State is obliged by section 7(2) of the Constitution to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in sections 9, 10, 15. 28, 31 and 34 of the Constitution to recognise Muslim marriages as valid and to regulate the consequences of such recognition. The court found that the President of South Africa and the Cabinet have failed to fulfil these constitutional obligations and must accordingly take steps to rectify this failure within 24 months of the date of the order. Accordingly, the state must prepare, initiate, introduce, enact and bring into operation, legislation to recognise Muslim marriages as valid marriages and to regulate the consequences of such recognition. Should the state fail to enact legislation as envisaged above, the court stated that a union, validly concluded as a marriage in terms of Sharia law and which subsists at the time this order becomes operative, may be dissolved in accordance with the Divorce Act 70 of 1979 even after its dissolution (in terms of Sharia Law). All the provisions of the Divorce Act will apply to such a union. The court also made provisions for the dissolution of polygamous marriages in a Muslim marriage. In ensuring that those will benefit from the findings of the court are aware of the order, the Department of Justice and Home Affairs must publish a summary of the order widely and without delay. We are encouraged by the Court’s decision to compel the government to take steps to ensure that the rights of women in Muslim marriages are realised. We celebrate this victory and hope that the state take steps to comply and make what the judgment envisages a reality for women in Muslim marriages. ENDS, Issued by: Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Date: 01 September 2018 Contact Person: Javu Baloyi Tel: 083 579 3306 The Commission for Gender Equality The Commission for Gender Equality is established in terms of Section 181 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in order to promote respect for gender equality and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality.