Keywords: Muslim personal law, Muslim Marriages Bill, South Africa, Law Reform Commission, human rights, religious freedom, marriage dissolution, clergy, polygyny, marriageable age, agents, matrimonial assets, Shari', ah, gender activists, South Africa, Islamic marriages, legal recognition, women', s rights, Islam
The debate regarding Muslim personal law in South Africa: achieving a balancing of interests
Muslim personal or family law has never been afforded legal recognition in South Africa due to their potentially polygnous nature. A call for a more clear and concise judicial and legislative guidance was required; hence, the advent of the Muslim Marriages Bill (MMB). The Muslim Marriages Bill was introduced in 2003 to provide statutory recognition of Muslim marriages. The bill emanates from an investigation by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) on Islamic Marriages and Related Matters. The bill sets out a statutory framework for the legal recognition of Muslim marriages and their consequences. The 2010 Bill (adapted version of 2003 bill) has yet to be enacted. This paper will examine religious freedom in terms of the South African Constitution, the status and pitfalls facing Muslim personal law in South Africa, the publication of the 2003 and 2010 MMBs and their impact on Muslim personal law and women's rights in South Africa, their reception by the local Muslim population and gender activists in South Africa, a review of Muslim personal reform in other countries and the way forward.