The interim and final constitutions and Muslim Personal Law: implications for South African Muslim women

13 Jun 2013

Introduction: All women face similar status problems in the private and public spheres of life but it is alleged that, as members of a religious community, Muslim women experience another inequality. This double inequality has resulted in a dichotomy between their public lives governed by secular laws and constitutions, and their private lives governed by religion. To date this conflict remains unresolved in various Muslim and non-Muslim countries. As will be indicated, commercial, criminal and penal codes were easily secularised but personal codes remained governed by religion. Traditional interpretations of Islam govern personal laws and as a result personal law codes conflict with the constitutions of Muslim majority and minority countries. While the constitutions of these countries guarantee equal rights to all citizens, the personal law codes privilege men over women in the areas covered by these personal laws resulting in the inequality of the sexes. There does not, however, appear to be any Islamic justification for this state of affairs. The practice of Muslims today, as opposed to the spirit of equality in Islam as contained in its primary sources, discriminates against women.