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Wed Aug 20 14:41:44 SAST 2014

Boost for Muslim women's rights

Sapa | 07 September, 2010 14:390 Comments

The Women's Legal Centre has welcomed a high court ruling which it says enforces equal rights for Muslim women under the City of Cape Town's housing policy.

The centre said on Tuesday that the policy had historically not recognised Muslim marriages, which meant Muslim wives could not get joint ownership with their husbands of properties bought from the city.

While the policy on paper no longer excluded Muslim women, in practice the discrimination had continued to be implemented, the centre said.

It said Cape High Court Judge Chantal Fortuin had recently ruled this was unconstitutional.

The ruling followed an application brought by the centre on behalf of a Muslim divorcee asking for an order giving her half ownership of a property allocated solely to her ex-husband.

Fortuin ruled the policy was inconsistent with the Constitution as it unfairly discriminated against women. She had said Muslim women should be entitled to joint ownership of properties, even though these had been awarded by the city solely to their husbands or partners.

She had ordered that the property at the heart of the application be transferred to the applicant and her ex-husband in equal shares.

The centre said on Tuesday that the ruling set an important precedent for other women in the same position. It said the policy had impacted adversely on many Muslim women.

When a Muslim husband obtained a divorce, the woman did not have any right to share in ownership of the property. They often left the marriage with no assets because these were owned by their ex-spouse or partner.

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