MS Omar Law In The News: Amod v Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund
Widow wins fight over Muslim marriages
Wednesday's appeal court ruling, which recognises spouses of an Islamic marriage as widows or widowers, has been described as a landmark decision which will have far-reaching implications.
Chief Justice Ismail Mohamed ruled that the Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accidents Fund was legally liable to compensate a Durban woman, Hafiza Amod, for the loss of support of her husband.
Amod, 32, had tried to get the fund to compensate her after the death of her husband in a car accident six years ago.
But she was refused payment because her Islamic marriage was not legally recognised. Therefore, the man she regarded as her husband was not obliged to support her.
An excited Amod said she had not expected the judgment to go her way.
"Justice has been done. Initially I didn't think I had a chance. It was a long shot, but I'm glad I didn't give up the fight. Many women find themselves in the same position as me. I'm sure this ruling will make our lives easier in many respects."
Although Islamic marriage itself was not recognised, the ruling would enable spouses of such a marriage to make different monetary claims.
Amod's attorney, Mahomed Shoaib Omar, said apart from the fact that any dependent spouse of a recognised religious marriage would now be entitled to payment from the fund, the ruling would have an impact in other ways.
"For example, people married according to Islamic rites would now be able to claim for maintenance and bring claims against the estates of deceased spouses. This was not possible before.
"The ruling has done away with a gross inequality and has restored public confidence in the judiciary."
A spokesman for the Commission on Gender Equality, Liesel Gerntholtz, said: "Every woman married in terms of a recognised religious ceremony, be it Hindu, Buddhist or Jewish, may have a legally enforceable right against a third party which deprives them of the support of their partner."
Sociologist Fatima Meer said it was a landmark decision which was long overdue.
"It's wonderful news. The economic aspect of the marriage is recognised and once this is acknowledged, it is easy to recognise it in other contexts," said Meer.