Traditional Muslim and Hindu marriages are not recognised by civil law
But if spouses go through a civil marriage ceremony or are married by a priest who is a marriage officer, the law will recognize their marriage. The husband then cannot marry any other woman by civil law or religious law.
The legal consequences of recognizing Muslim and Hindu marriages has been debated in the Law Commission and broader public for a number of years but there is as yet no agreement. In the meantime, rights have been given to spouses in Muslim marriages in bits and pieces in the same way that they have for domestic partnerships.
Court decisions dealing with recognition of Muslim and Hindu marriages
In the case of Amod v Multilateral Motor Vehicle Accident Fund 1999 (4) SA 1319 (SCA), a surviving spouse from a Muslim marriage was given the right to claim damages for loss of support from the Fund when her husband died in a motor accident.
In the case of Daniels v Campbell N.O. and Others 2004 (5) SA 331 (CC), the plaintiff was given the right to claim maintenance from the estate of her deceased husband to whom she had been married by Muslim law, in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act.
In the case of Khan v Khan TPD case no: 82705/03 / A 2705/2003 a Muslim woman who was party to a polygamous Muslim marriage was given the right to claim maintenance from her spouse in terms of the Maintenance Act.