In a meeting held by 12 Muslim Ministers and MPs at the Parliament over a week ago, it was decided that necessary reforms to the MMDA will be tabled before the Cabinet for approval through a joint cabinet paper submitted by the Minister of Justice and Minister of Muslim Affairs.
Among the important and much awaited reforms were the increase of minimum marriage age to 18 years for both males and females, and removal of the word ‘male’ for Quazis which would lift discrmination and exclusion of women from being awarded the status and awarding a judicial status to Quazi courts and appointing those with an Attorney-at-law qualification specializing in Muslim law, as Quazi judges.
But Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that ACJU has been lobbying among Muslim political leadership during the past few days behind the scenes, to thwart implementation of the reforms.
The need for MMDA reforms come in the wake of horror stories emerging from various parts of Sri Lanka, where women and children have been discriminated, abused and violated of their fundamental rights due to the archaic legislations included in the MMDA.
In one such recent instance, a 16-year old from Kandy had been forcibly married off to her rapist as determined by the Quazi court against the wishes of the victim and her parents, only to realize the rapist is married with a child.
Meanwhile, Sirisena loyalist Salley has been actively lobbying alongside the ACJU to scuttle the MMDA reforms – with meetings scheduled today with several Muslim MPs. Senior Journalist Munza Mushtaq in a tweet today said Salley has informed Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale to not proceed with the MMDA reforms without consultation and recommendation of Islamic clergy.
Those who have been advocating for MMDA reforms over the past several years point out certain factions are engaged in violating fundamental rights of Muslim women by invoking adherence to Islamic law. They point out that blocking reforms in the name of Islamic law is in fact un-Islamic, as these factions seek to proscribe ‘what is not proscribed, in the name of Sharia’.
Pro-MMDA reform activists are calling upon all groups to celebrate the diverse opinions within Shariah and ensure justice is done by all citizens and they are also calling upon the President, PM and Ministers of the Cabinet to act swiftly and take measures to reform archaic discriminatory laws.
Full list of MMDA reforms agreed by Muslim MP’s:
Reforms of Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act
Minutes of Meeting of Muslim Members of Parliament at Parliament at 3.30 pm on 11th July 2019
The Following Ministers and MPs were present:
- Hon. M.H.A.Haleem, Minister of Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs
- Hon. M.H.M.Fowzie, MP
- Hon. Rauf Hakeem, MP
- Hon. Faizer Musthafa, MP
- Hon. Ameer Ali, MP
- Hon. M.A.M..Maharoof, MP
- Hon. Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana, MP
- Hon. S.M.Ismail, MP
- Hon. K.Kader Masthan, MP
- Hon. Ishaq Mohamed, MP
- Hon. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, MP
- Hon.M.Nazeer, MP
1. Joint Cabinet memorandum will be submitted by the Hon. Minister of Justice and Minister of Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs along with the Draft amended MMDA Bill
2. The draft Bill and Cabinet Memorandum will be submitted for Muslim MPs for their consent before it is submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers
3. The MPs who were present resolved as follows:
1. Age of Marriage: Agree to provide for 18 years for both men and women without a difference
2. Registration – validity / invalidity : Registration and Nikah are mandatory to validate a marriage
3. Mata’a / Compensatory gift – lump sum compensation – Agree to Mata’a for Talaq, Khula and Faskh. Compensation for Faskh is possible only if it is proved that the wife has been compelled by duress exerted upon her by her husband to seek a Fashh in order to avoid paying Mata’a
4. / Mazhabs. Agree to keep the sect in tact subjects to following amendments:
Parties to a Muslim marriage belong to two different sects, can mutually agree to be governed by a particular sect in the declarations made by them
One or both parties to a Muslim marriage do not belong to any sect, or where the parties to the marriage belong to two different sects but they have not mutually agreed to abide by the Muslim law of any particular sect in the declaration made by them, all the matters relating to the said marriage shall be governed by the principles of Muslim law, without being confined to the law governing any particular sect.
5. as Qazi – Agree to remove the gender discrimination by removing the word “male”
6. Role of male Wali. – Agree to keep male wali, provided that in the event of the Qazi happens to be a women, when there is no wali for the bride, a male Qazi of another jurisdiction can be invited to deputize the female Qazi of a particular jurisdiction. (Present position is that wali is required for all women other than those who have been married before while women can get Quazi approval and marry without Wali)
7. of Quazis and Upgarde of Quazi courts – Agree to elevate the institution of Quazi to the status of a court, be recognized as an integral part of the Sri Lankan Judiciary and to enhance the status of a Quazi to that of a permanent and full time Judicial Officer of such class and grade as may be determined by the Judicial Service Commission. The amending legislation to provide that persons to be appointed as Quazis, Temporary Quazis and Special Quazis, should be Attorneys-at-law having a sound knowledge of Muslim law.
8. Lawyers Appearing at Quazi court : Do not agree to representation by Attorneys – at –Law in the Qazi courts. Either party can be accompanied by any individual during their court procedures but lawyers cannot appear in Quazi courts to represent clients in their legal capacity.
9. Polygamy with conditions: Agreed to keep the polygamy with conditions applied as follows ( This will almost curtail the polygamy)
Quazi approval required based on following conditions for subsequent marriage:
Adequately looking after wives
Adequately looking after children
Adequately looking after future wife
Financial capacity to look after all
Inform present wife/wives
Subsequent marriage contracted without Quazi’s permissions is punishable by imprisonment
If wife doesn’t give permission, wife can apply for a divorce.
Polygamy without Quazi’s approval and without fulfilling the conditions cannot be solemnized and registered. Such marriage should be invalidated.
10. Consent / Signature of Bride – Agree to provides for Wali as well as bride to sign
11. Kaikuli /dowry, – Agree to provide for recovery of kaikuli to be expended to include Mahar and movable and immovable property
12. Role of Women – Agree to provide for adequate representation for males/ females in MMD advisory board, Board of Quazi’s, Appointment of women registrars
13. Maintenance – Agree to take out of the jurisdiction of Quazi court and bring under the District Court
14. All matters agreed upon by consensus – Agree to include all other matters agreed upon by consensus by both Justice Saleem Marsoof et al and Faiz Mustafa et al