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Al-Jama’ah party leader, Ganief Hendricks, has put forward the Registration of the Muslim Marriages Bill to Parliament.
According to the Government, the bill seeks to provide “recognition of Muslim marriages as a valid and binding contract of marriage and the requirements of a valid Muslim marriage, including solemnisation thereof”, amongst others.
As specified by Professor Muhammed Haron, a senior researcher at Al-Jama’ah, it is a minimalistic bill not clustered with legalities.
“This bill is just for pure recognition, basic regulations, and protection. In other words, this bill will be an entry into other bills and acts that will have to be amended”.
The registration of the Muslim Marriages Bill is based on years of struggle, with many religious clerics and legal experts seeking recognition and falling short of it.
The efforts and triumph of the Women’s Legal Centre at the Constitutional Court prompted Al-Jama’ah to push this matter forward in Parliament.
Different Time, Same Issue
Professor Haron said this recognition issue is not something Muslims have been dealing with exclusively in today’s society. It is a generational problem which persisted during the colonial period, the apartheid period, and now in the democratic period.
Muslim marriages under the Islamic religion are not recognised by the state and are therefore invalid in South African civil law. This has had negative consequences on Muslim families, more specifically, women and children.
Professor Haron said, “As a result [of Muslim marriages not being recognised], women and children suffered all sorts of indignities. The community at large did too, but these specific groupings have encountered many difficulties. They lost their homes, [and] assets as a result of non-recognition … This had to be remedied, this had to change, and this is when Al-Jamaah basically stepped in”.
What Happens Next?
If the bill is passed by Parliament after going through the necessary approval avenues, it would mean all Muslim marriages are automatically recognised by the state.
Muslims will therefore be required to get a certificate which will validate their nikah certificate from the Home Affairs Department. The certificate will prove that the couples are married within the confines of the legal system.
If couples do not get their certificates from Home Affairs, “there might not be a major problem”, said Professor Haron.
However, “[It] still means that if somebody dies, if you die or your spouse dies, then you might have to get the redress from the legal system. Whereas if you had gone there and you have that [certificate], the system will automatically recognise you as a married couple in accordance with Muslim rights … But if you have not done so, it means that you might have to go to court to basically fight your case”.