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    Court Orders South Africa to Recognize Muslim Marriages as Valid

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    South African law does not recognize traditional marriages between Muslims, with the only exception being made for “indigenous African people.”

    Muslim men and women are effectively deprived of their right to seek legal protection when they divorce, including alimony claims.

    This practice may eventually come to an end after a high court ruled on Friday that the law is constitutionally “invalid.”

    Following years of debate, the Woman's Legal Center (WLC) advocacy group took the matter to court demanding that the state pass new legislation or include couples married under Muslim religious rites into the current common law.

    The Western Cape High Court gave the government and parliament 24 months to amend the law.

    In the meantime, the judge ruled that all Muslim marriages should conform to the existing divorce practice.

    The court also ordered the president and the ministers of justice and home affairs to compensate the Women's Legal Center Trust for their legal costs.

    WLC lawyer Charlene May praised the court’s decision as an "enormous victory for Muslim women in this country."

    "The judgment has the potential to impact on thousands of women in the country who practice and live their faith and who are walking around without protection," she said.

    Muslims, most of them immigrants from South Asia and North Africa, account for between 1.5 and 1.9 percent of South Africa's population of 55 million.

    READ MORE: 'We're Here to Stay': South Africa's White Minority Wants Recognition


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