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The South African Muslim Marriages Bill

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COALITION OF MUSLIM WOMEN (KZN) AND THE MUSLIM MARRIAGES BILL The Coalition of Muslim Women (CMW) is an open non-partisan organization that addresses issues pertinent to and strives towards ensuring social justice, fairness and equality for Muslim Women in South Africa. The CMW was initiated by a group of Muslim women from the broader KZN area. CMW is of the view that there needs to be legislation recognising Muslim marriages. In 2003 the South African Law Research Commission (SALRC) concluded a four year consultation process on the recognition of Muslim marriages in South Africa with a draft Muslim Marriages Bill which it submitted to the Ministry of Justice. Groups and individuals across the country made submissions during this consultative phase and individual members of the CMW were amongst them. Since 2003 Muslim women around the country have been waiting for the Bill to be tabled at Parliament. In January 2011 the Ministry of Justice approved the Muslim Marriages Bill and published it for public comment. The CMW intends to place the issues concerning women at the forefront of further discussions on the Bill. The CMW is of the belief that in the absence of a legal framework for the regulation of Muslim marriage and divorce, the married lives of Muslim women remain unpredictable and outside of their control. In the absence of such legislation, Muslims and especially women, face many hardships and challenges. A host of cases prove that in the absence of legislation, parties are forced to seek relief from the courts. Not all parties are able to access the courts largely because of costs. Although some of the judgments (Amod & Rylands cases) have been hailed as victories for Muslim spouses, the end result has not always relied on Islamic law. e.g. Daniels & Hassam cases. To leave very complex Islamic issues to be decided and developed through the common law leaves Muslim marriages in a very risky position. Legislation will bring certainty to the matter and courts will be bound to apply this new legislation. Clearly, the Muslim community will have a huge say in the finalisation of the legislation since participatory democracy is a constitutional principle. In the circumstances the CMW calls on all Muslims and Muslim organisations to make their voices heard by engaging in the process. By remaining silent or adopting a stance of total rejection leaves the fate of Muslim marriages squarely in the hands of the lawmakers.

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