Children's rights at issue in Muslim marriages case
Publish date: 11 September 2017
Issue Number: 742
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa
Children’s rights came into focus in the Western Cape High Court last week as arguments to have Muslim marriages recognised under common law continued, notes a report on the IoL site. Advocate Michelle O’Sullivan, for the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), argued that because Muslim marriages were not recognised, when couples divorced there was no automatic court oversight for the well-being of minors. This included issues such as where children would live, and orders on maintenance payments. The centre is arguing that the consequence of having no legislative protections for persons married according to religious rites was caused by a delay in reform, says the report. Over the past 20 years, WLC has made the government aware that the lack of legal recognition of Muslim marriages has resulted in Muslim women being treated unfairly upon the dissolution of marriage. A process was started in 1996 by government to recognise Muslim marriages but came to a halt in 2012 after the Muslim Marriages Bill was published for comment. The WLC launched an application in the public interest in the Western Cape High Court, seeking relief aimed at providing women in Muslim marriages, and the children born of such marriages, with legal protections, primarily upon divorce. ‘At the end of the day there is a huge imbalance at the lack of oversight. Concluding things on a piecemeal basis is not remedying the discrimination which is at the heart of this case,’ O’Sullivan argued.