Nazia Farook, left, the chairperson of the As-Sakina Women’s Forum, with Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Fathima Chohan, at the Al Ameen Mosque Hall in Phoenix.
Durban - Women who had not registered their Islamic traditional marriages were being marginalised by aggrieved husbands, according to Islamic community leader and registered marriage officer Shayk Rafeek Hassen.

In other known cases, widowers in unregistered marriages were unable to prove their or their children’s right to inheritance, he said at a meeting at the Al Ameen Mosque Hall in Phoenix.

“The issue here among Indians is they get married traditionally. Some of them don’t worry about registering their marriage with home affairs."

“Generally, there is an apathy to that. They believe they got married religiously and are fine.”

Hassen said some Muslim couples felt that the traditional marriage was “religious and divine”, but they didn’t understand the legal consequences.

“What we have done about four years ago with the Department of Home Affairs, was we got our moulanas and imams to become marriage officers. We initiated that and got about 200 marriage officers nationally."

“Still, having done that, there is an apathy from the Indian Muslim community to not register the marriage.”

According to Hassen, this was just a pilot study, which recently revealed that few marriage registrations were being done among Muslims.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Fatima Chohan said the department under her control was “the caretaker of the National Population Register database of all our citizens”.

“If this database is not accurate or not reliable, it cannot be used for things like planning, which is why you have to take a census from time to time at a huge cost.

“If it (the database) was reliable, you could use it as an instrument to plan ahead, because you would know, for example, what to prioritise for your citizens. It also helps to identity trends.”

Muslim women from Phoenix and surrounding areas attended the meeting.

The vice-chairperson of the As-Sakina Women’s Forum in Phoenix, Nasreen Hoosen, said: “Marriage registrations, for our forum, is an important issue. It is important for our women to understand where they stand in the marriage.”

She said there was usually influence from both sides of the family - for the bride and groom - to protect each other’s assets.

Yasmin Cassim, a widower, expressed her concern to Chohan, asking if she had to change her married surname back to her maiden name, because her husband had died.

“My husband and I were married for 35 years and we were registered.

“I was so worried that I would have to change my name now, but I am happy to hear the deputy minister say I don’t have to,” she said.

Other issues raised pertained to the registration of children born out of wedlock, children born in South Africa to foreign parents and how to deal with parents who take their children out of the country illegally.