Long awaited, but finally approved!
As from Wednesday, 30th of April 2014, Muslim marriages will be recognised as legal for the first time in South African history – a move described as more than 300 years in the making.
Since Muslims were first brought to South Africa as slaves more than three centuries ago their marriages had no legal standing before Wednesday’s graduation.
The accreditation of over 100 Imams as marriage officers has paved the way for the official recognition of the marriages of Muslim couples in South Africa, allowing them to be recorded on the National Population Register and so to receive the full legal status afforded by the country’s Constitution.
On the 30th of April 2014, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said: “Today, in partnership with the Muslim community, government has been able to accredit over 100 Imams as marriage officers under the 1961 Marriage Act. This will enable the legal official recognition of the unions of Muslim couples. Out of this initial step we will be able to push back the frontiers of exclusion that have so long been visited on the Muslim community.”
According to Motlanthe the graduation of the Imams mark the start of a new chapter in the history of the Muslim community in South Africa. As South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy, its vision of unity, non-racialism and non-sexism was gradually becoming a reality.
“As a result of the Imams being designated as marriage officers in terms of the Marriages Act (25) of 1961, the registration of Muslim unions will accord Muslim marriages legal status and with that, the protective instruments of the secular state may be accessed to ensure that these Qur’anic values are realized and complied with within the Constitutional state.”
Muslims entering into a religious marriage ceremony (the Nikah) in front of one such Imam may now elect to simultaneously register their civil marriage in community of property. Alternatively, to marry out of community of property on the same day as the ceremony, an antenuptial contract has to be signed by the couple prior to the date of marriage.
The legalizing of Muslim marriages is a groundbreaking step for the Muslim Community in South Africa. For the first time in South African history, a Muslim marriage will be recognised and the children will be seen as legitimate in terms of the law.
Wietz Viljoen, WVA INC.
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