The Divorce Amendment Bill has been signed into law, bringing changes to Muslim divorces in South Africa.

Divorce Act was unconstitutional

The amendment to the Divorce Act of 1979 follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court in the case of Women’s Legal Centre Trust v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (2022). The court found the act unconstitutional for excluding Muslim marriages.

The non-recognition of Muslim marriages in civil law meant that a person, especially a woman, who is married in terms of Islamic law had no right to seek a divorce from a court. Under Sharia law, Muslim women were often left destitute if divorced as they could not enforce maintenance and guard their children’s rights.

“The amended legislation addresses shortcomings in the Divorce Act of 1979, which differentiated between people married in terms of the Marriage Act and people married according to Muslim rites, especially women,” said the Presidency.

Changes protect Muslim women and children

Thus, the Divorce Amendment Bill does the following:

  • To insert a definition of a Muslim marriage,
  • To provide for the protection and to safeguard the interests of dependent and minor children of a Muslim marriage.
  • To provide for the redistribution of assets on the dissolution of a Muslim marriage
  • To provide for the forfeiture of patrimonial benefits of a Muslim marriage.

Speak to a Divorce expert

Should you have any inquiries regarding your legal rights if married under Sharia or civil law, please speak to our experienced Family Law team. We will ensure that your interests, and those of your children, are safeguarded.

For legal advice about Family Law, Divorce and Matrimonial Law

Juan Smuts            

Heynes Kotze        

Corinne Petersen 



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