28/08/2017 12:49 SAST | Updated 28/08/2017 12:56 SAST

Why This Organisation Is Going To Court To Have Muslim Marriages Declared Legally Valid In South Africa

"Women are often left with no access to property, money or resources in the event of a divorce."

Amit Dave / Reuters

Muslim marriages solemnized in terms of Islamic or Muslim rites have no legal recognition in South Africa -- unlike unions entered into under civil or African customary law.

"This simply means parties married by Islamic or Muslim rites are regarded as unmarried," clarified attorney Roy Bregman.

According to the Women's Legal Centre (WLC), this greatly disadvantages women. This is why the non-profit law organisation has taken the government to court -- for failing to pass legislation that will give Muslim weddings recognition.

The case will be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. It was filed in 2014.

In a statement, the centre explained: "When civil or customary marriages break down, the law steps in to ensure fairness between the spouses and to protect the rights of the children. This is not the case in respect of Muslim marriages or other religious marriages."

"Women are often left with no access to property, money or resources in the event of a divorce," explained Abrahams-Faykers, an attorney at the centre.

Further, it's dependent upon the husband to agree when the wife seeks a divorce - and no religious body can compel him to agree if he does not want to.

"Legislation is imperative in order to either give wives equal authority to terminate the marriage so as to create bargaining power on their behalf or require their husbands to register each divorce with the court so that at minimum, wives have notice of their husbands' intent to divorce," said Abrahams-Fayker.

The centre believes that the failure to provide substantially equal remedies to spouses in Muslim marriages as those available to spouses married in civil and customary law violates Section 9 of the Constitution -- which states that everyone is equal before the law.

And this is tantamount to disregard for Muslim women, concluded Abraham-Faykers.