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Draft Muslim Marriages Bill: Deadline for Comment Extended

March 23, 2011

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The deadline for written submissions on the draft Muslim Marriages Bill has been extended to 31 May 2011.

The draft bill was published on 21 January 2011 in notice 37 of Government Gazette 33946.

According to a media statement announcing the new deadline, the department of justice and constitutional development will “allow for consultations and engagements to take place to the extent that it is practical to do so”.

Noting that the subject matter is “complex and emotive”, government is nevertheless of the view that a resolution “must be found”.

When the draft bill was originally released for comment, the gazetted notice concerned drew attention to the need to provide for the “statutory recognition” of Muslim marriages in order to address “inequities and hardships” resulting from their current status.

According to this notice, the draft bill resulted from an investigation conducted by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) on Islamic marriages and related matters.

In its current form it applies to:

· persons adhering to the Muslim faith; and
· anyone electing to be bound by its provisions.

By implication, therefore, the draft bill includes an “opting out” provision for those not wishing to be bound by the dictates of Islam.

Section 15(3) of the Constitution supports the proposed new statute by stating that the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion does not preclude legislation recognising:

· marriages concluded under any tradition, or under a system of religious, personal or family law; or
· systems of personal and family law under any tradition, or adhered to by persons professing a particular religion.