Published by The Cape Times 02 December 2015
THE Commission for Gender Equality was made a friend of the court in the Women’s Legal Centre Trust’s application to have the Muslim Marriages Bill made law.
In the Western Cape High Court yesterday, advocate Michael Bishop appeared on behalf of the commission before Judge Siraj Desai, who agreed to the application.
But unlike the trust, which is demanding the bill be made law, Bishop said the commission would rather put forward arguments that ordered legislative bodies to consider passing the bill.
Muslim marriages would be recognised when the bill became law.
“The Women’s Legal Centre Trust seeks an order that requires Parliament to act, but this court cannot order Parliament to act. We propose giving Parliament an opportunity to consider and pass the Bill,” Bishop said.
The trust has taken President Jacob Zuma, Parliament, the departments of home affairs, and justice and correctional services to court to have Muslim marriages recognised with the passing of the Muslim Marriages Bill.
A friend of the court is a party that is not directly involved in the case but that offers relevant information. Other amici curia, or friends of the court, include the Jamiatul Ulama KwaZuluNatal, South African Lawyers for Change, The Law Society of South Africa, the United Ulama Council of South Africa, and the Islamic Unity Convention.
The hearing was set aside for three days this week, but it was likely to continue into next year, trust attorney Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said yesterday.
The process was started in 2010 when a notice was published in the Government Gazette, followed by invitations for public comment.
Abrahams-Fayker said Muslim women had remained socially vulnerable and disadvantaged, because nothing had been done since.
Abrahams-Fayker previously said the respondents had failed to fulfil the obligations imposed on them by the constitution – that “all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay”.
“The Women’s Legal Centre Trust provides free legal advice to women, and over the years we have noticed the issue most women come forward with is the consequences they experience when they attempt to leave a marriage. Because a man is often the breadwinner, the woman is left with no place to stay,” Abrahams-Fayker said.
The Muslim Assembly also put forward an application yesterday to have affidavits filed in founding papers to be used as evidence in court.
The assembly is a community-based organisation that caters to the religious, social and educational upliftment of Muslims in the province.
It, among others, grants divorces to women.
The case is expected to continue today.
Francesca Villette — Cape Times 2 December 2015