FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

05 August 2021

At the start of the hearing of our case, Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) v President of South Africa on the recognition of Muslim marriages in the Constitutional Court this morning (5 August 2021), a participant logged into the hearing link was heard referring to our counsel, Advocate Nazreen Bawa SC, as “looking like a ninja”. The individual in question further intimated that Advocate Bawa was only dressed in a religious headscarf because she was putting on an act for the court given the subject matter of the hearing. 

The WLC takes great exception to the utterances made against both our counsel as a womxn, as a legal practitioner and as a Muslim womxn who has chosen to express her religious beliefs. The comments were made by another female legal practitioner at the beginning of what is arguably the most important case related to the rights of Muslim womxn in our country’s constitutional democracy. 

Its purpose was to be hurtful, demeaning and to cause harm to Advocate Bawa, and the case of Muslim womxn that she was seeking to put before the Court. It also makes a mockery of Muslim womxn who choose to dress in line with their religious beliefs.

These utterances against Advocate Bawa is misogynistic, hateful speech that reminds us that womxn, too, are capable of perpetuating patriarchy and holding it up against other womxn. This form of speech seeks nothing more than to silence, undermine and exclude the voices of womxn in patriarchal societies. 

As the WLC and as legal practitioners, we take exception to the utterances that Advocate Bawa was acting for the Court by expressing her Muslim identity openly. As highlighted by Advocate Bawa at the beginning of the hearing, the WLC has worked on this matter over a long period of time and has committed substantial resources to this case because of its commitment to the realisation of equality in relationships and achieve substantive gender equality specifically in relationships. 

We emphasise too that Advocate Bawa is a senior advocate who has dedicated the past seven years to working relentlessly on this case and for the recognition of the rights of Muslim womxn. Believing that Advocate Bawa would act for the Court for such a serious case disparagingly undermines her professionalism and her commitment to womxn’s rights and the Centre’s work on this case and broadly in South Africa. 

We are saddened but completely not surprised that she has been targeted as the face of the case today in such a vile and misogynistic manner. 

We remain unapologetically resolute in our pursuit for substantive gender equality, and we will not be silenced or deterred by those who do not agree with our work or the importance of equality and dignity in South Africa. 

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The Women’s Legal Centre is an African feminist legal centre that advances womxn’s rights and equality using tools such as litigation, advocacy, education, advice, research and training.

For media enquiries contact Ru du Toit (communications@wlce.co.za or 079 990 2494)

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