Al Jama-ah party submits bill on Muslim marriage to Speaker
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Cape Town - Ahead of an expected judgment from the Constitutional Court, on the recognition of Muslim Marriage under South African law, the Al Jamah-ah Party has submitted a Private Members Bill, on a proposed interim registration of Muslim marriages, to the Speaker of Parliament.
Party leader Ganief Hendricks said the new bill is in response to a recent judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and the party’s position in respect of the Green Paper, published by the Department of Home Affairs.
Hendricks said: “The bill is a minimalist piece of legislation, aimed at just registering a nikah, which is a marriage performed by an Imam – with consequences including proprietary benefits, in terms of the Islamic tenets/rulings on marriage.
“It also provides for a pre-nuptial marital contract before marriage, which can subject the marriage relationship to some of the provisions of the 20 Acts of Parliament relating to marriages. This bill gives couples a definite choice.”
Hendricks says this new bill is not an opt out, and will be Islamic compliant with correct advice.
He said this is as opposed to the Marriage Act, which – in line with the SCA ruling from earlier in the year – will be passed in 2024.
He said both the Marriage Act and the Divorce Act have provisions which are against the rulings of Islam.
Al Jama-ah Women's League president Veli Luthuli launched the public participation process for the bill, at the Gugulethu Mosque, where she addressed members of the Western Cape Women's Shura Council at the weekend.
Speaking during the the 2021 Women’s Parliament last week, Luthuli said: “After 27 years of struggle, a nikah bill has finally been accomplished for Muslim marriages. The recognition of the nikah will restore the dignity of Muslim women.”
She said the bill is an update of Al Jama-ah’s earlier Private Members Bill on Recognition of Registration of Nikah Bill, which proposed changing death certificate registration in the case of a nikah marriage. Currently, such certificates do no recognise nikah marriages and states that couples were “never married.”
Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court reserved judgment in the application by the Women's Legal Centre (WLC), which wanted it to confirm an order of the Supreme Court of Appeal, made in December last year.
The SCA order said it recognised the injustice and stigma suffered by Muslim women in South Africa because of the non-recognition of marriages concluded in terms of Sharia law, and gave the state 24 months to remedy the defects in the law.
Asked for comment on the bill, WLC spokesperson Ru Du Toit said they had not read the bill yet and were unable to make any comments until they had done so.