South Africa: Divorce Amendment Bill signed into law

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the Divorce Amendment Bill, which amends the 1979 Divorce Act to recognize Muslim marriages and protect the interests of Muslim women and children in Muslim marriages in the event that marriages dissolve.

Currently, Muslim couples who choose to marry under Islamic law can only obtain the statutory protection of the South African legal system as it applies to civil spouses if, in addition to their marriage under Islamic law, they register a civil marriage .

“The amended legislation addresses shortcomings in the 1979 Divorce Act, which distinguished between people who were married in terms of the Marriage Act and people who were married according to Muslim rites, particularly women.

“The amendments passed by the President provide a definition of a Muslim marriage in the Divorce Act of 1979; protection and safeguarding of the interests of dependent and minor children of a Muslim marriage; redistribution of assets on dissolution of a Muslim marriage and forfeiture of assets on a Muslim marriage,” the presidency said Thursday.

The new legislation is a response to a previous Constitutional Court ruling that recognized the need and importance of protecting Muslim women and children of Muslim marriages, especially when a Muslim marriage is dissolved.

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