29 November, 2023


Are Only Muslim Women, Women?

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

There is a campaign aimed at stage-managing the sensitivities of the people by a few Muslim women and men. They present themselves as the saviours and protectors of the rights of the Muslim women especially, in the application of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA). Various reasons have been attributed by the people for the emergence of this campaign. Some of which are bitter personal experiences, prejudices, monetary benefits, opportunism, cheap publicity and, either feigned or real ignorance. This column is not concerned with such speculations and will be focussing on developing a balanced view of the problems suffered by all women, in general.

The danger of exaggerating information and misleading opinions is that they induce the other to agree with something that is half-truth or anything but the truth. As for the MMDA, the blatantly evident neglect and, the lack of will, on the part of successive governments to implement reforms has never been admitted by anyone. Justice Saleem Marsoof in his report states that a resolution was unanimously adopted by Parliament on 9th March 2012 as follows: “the status of the Quazi Court System must be upgraded in such a manner where sittings be held in premises congenial to the dignity of the system and as the Quazi judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission they should be placed on a respectable and an acceptable salary structure payable to other judicial officers.”

Muslim Women Exposed

One side in this ‘blame game’ alleges the Muslim community as a ‘patriarchy’, ‘conservative’, ‘male dominant’ and ‘misogynist’. The sociological reality is that Sri Lanka is a male dominant society, Muslim or otherwise. Research indicates that up to 97% of Sri Lankan men believed women should obey their husbands. (Ceylon Medical Journal 2015; 60: 133-138). What it tells about such allegers, some of whom are pitifully trained lawyers, I leave it to the reader.

It is disappointing to see how they labour untiringly to depict a hopeless and helpless picture of the Muslim woman in Sri Lanka. The sheer exaggeration of this adventure has to be exposed in order to bring to the people the truth. The position of women, all women, in this country needs a lot of improvement. This is a macro-sociological problem to be remedied at a national level. To focus attention on or, to hone it down to the Muslim women only, cannot be considered as honest civil advocacy for the upliftment of women.

Women Are Our Mothers

Women constitute half of the society. They are our mothers. They deserve every bit of respect, dignity and higher status. This blessed country practices four major religions. Each of these inculcate values, morals and ethics with regard to respecting the mother. Our country’s socio-cultural fabric is overwhelmed with such sentiments. Like in any society, despite these values, the problems that women face runs into a long list. These ‘activists’ need to take cognisance of the fact that there are thousands of our Sinhala and Tamil mothers who are also mistreated one way or the other. It is misleading to exhibit a pessimistic picture of only Muslim women by citing insignificant sporadic examples of hurt.

Are They Not Women?

It is a fact that all women are subjected to sexual and gender-based violence both by public authorities and private persons. For the year 2020, as per National Child Protection Authority, there had been 256 rapes, 373 Grave sexual abuse, 518 incidents of Sexual Harassment. All these are Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim women. Imagine the number of unreported cases. These activists would do well to look at violence, poverty and lack of protection for women in general, than pointing their fingers only at the Muslim women, pretending every-one else is fine.

In around 350 garment factories approximately 300,000 women are employed. As per the National Plan of Action, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) in Sri Lanka 2016- 2020, “A lack of a protective environment … make them easy targets for verbal, physical and sexual harassment, and victims of rape and even murder.” In the Plantation Sector, a study conducted in 7 estates among 350 women found nearly 83% had experienced GBV. (Kamalini Wijethilake, 2003). Travelling is the greatest risk of sexual harassment at 83% of the victims. Sexual harassment at the workplace was experienced by 57% of women, and GBV at the place of residence was reported by 36%. (Perera, M 1997, ‘Study on safety of Free Trade Zone workers‘, Marga institute).

Massage Parlours

There are thousands of women in the informal sector who are subject to unequal wages and also lack of legal protection. In the larger canvass, have these “women activists’ taken account of the mushrooming massage parlours throughout the country. They double as centres for prostitution as alleged by some people. Are not these women our mothers? The very nature of their employment subject them to all forms of exploitation, sexual violence, gender violence and drug crimes. What will remain of her self-respect and her esteem as an individual.

The Attorney General’s department on 18.08.2020 announced that it concluded 12,968 cases of child abuse from January 2019 to July 2020. (Newsfirst). A local newspaper reported that there were 2,055 child abuse cases in 2020 alone. (Ceylon Today, 16.06.2021). Now, how many of these can be attributed to the families of married Muslim women?

Maintenance Money

For example, they profile a few Muslim women separated from their husbands and are not being paid an adequate sum of money for maintenance. Then make it a tool for their campaign. The preoccupation of exposing Muslim women as victims makes them blind to the suffering of the women within the Sinhala and Tamil community facing similar problems. It is wrong not to pay adequate maintenance to the wife whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. This has to be addressed. Similarly, the society cannot let an abusive or neglectful husband go scot-free. It is equally wrong to beat the war drums to portray irregular occurrences as rampant within the Muslim community, as if other communities are doing well and happy. It is trite law that civil advocacy excels with qualities of sincerity, truthfulness and altruism.

This country is facing serious problems with the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The consequences of these habits are sadly faced by our mothers. Many of these users may automatically get attracted to all types of vices including those related to extra marital affairs. Two in every five women (39.8%) have experienced physical, sexual, emotional, and/or economic violence and/or controlling behaviours by a partner in their lifetime. (Women’s Wellbeing Survey – 2019). These are broader level social issues which should be focussed upon. Highlighting the shortcomings within the Muslim community is most welcome and an admirable exercise. They certainly need to be sorted out.

International Rights Organisations

Women from all communities face problems relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance, domestic violence, adultery, drunkenness, drug addiction, child abuse etc. What is unethical is the self-mandated few women who have decided among themselves, to speak on behalf of the Muslim women. In the rush, exaggerating their submissions to various governmental bodies and international rights organisations. Please do not overblow the situation. Please do not make a disproportionate noise. Please do not place the entire Muslim community in the dock. This is bad advocacy. It will not be accepted by the community hands down.

Justice is founded on fairness and reasonableness. This in turn relies on facts presented in its true form without cosmetics, semantics and embellishments. The reader and the listener beware!

*The writer can be contacted via Email: ctcolumn@yahoo.com

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Latest comments

  • 10

    The Arab influence on Sri Lankan muslims is the main problem – The Sri Lankan muslims should be wise and reject the Arab madness.

    • 4

      Mass: Gayathri Spivak once said that “Colonialism was about “White men protecting brown women from brown men”!
      Is it this perennial Muslim woman question used in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to distract from the fact that that the US with its 800 military bases all over the world and addicted to war, the latest manifestation being AUKUS has destroyed countless Muslim countries – from Libya to Syria to Iraq to Iran where they staged a coup, Afghanistan occupied for 20 years etc?
      Whenever the Western Deepstate project to use so-called Islamist ‘terror’ to divide, distract and colonize Asian and African countries including Sri Lanka where the US desperately wants a military base in the Indian Ocean, and the CIA designed and Saudi Funded Easter 2019 operation claimed by ISIS come up, also now with the US debacle in Afghanistan, the Muslim woman question pops up!

      • 3

        Who wants a Clash of Civilizations between Buddhism and Islam to destabilize Asian economies? Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand are being targeted, as during the Cold War, by Weaponizing religions, Buddhism and Islam against communism, de-colonization, national liberating and social justice movements. They are also WEAPONIZING DIASPORAS -Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim.
        NTJ and Zaharan was funded by the CIA-Saudi-Israel ISIS project to divide Muslims – Shia vs. Sunni etc. an old Cold War project.
        The Human Rights and Minority Rights industry NGOs in Sri Lanka never talk about how their chief funders, USAID and EU, are militarizing the Indian Ocean region.
        It is clear that the Deepstate wants to stage a “Clash of Civilizations between Buddhism and Islam” to Make Euro-America great again and ensure that the 21st Century will not be the century of Asia!

    • 4

      Specifically it is the Saudi Arabian Wahabi influence more than others.

  • 17

    True, women in all communities have problems.

    But a ‘man’ ( men historically who actually create the problem) should be the last person to talk about them . Let the Muslim women be free to talk about their problems ( In Afghanistan we see men who are uneducated religious fanatics claiming to protect women ! )

    Forced circumcision, forced marriages, marriage when still young , unable to marry outside of religion, property rights, lack of equality etc are feudal, and even symbolic slavery.

    We should move forward, not be blinded by thousand year old dogmas of a civilization that existed in the the Saudi sands

  • 5

    “What is unethical is the self-mandated few women who have decided among themselves, to speak on behalf of the Muslim women. In the rush, exaggerating their submissions to various governmental bodies and international rights organisations.

    Same thing is done by Muslims and Tamils who speak/write on behalf of their communities.

  • 6

    If the Government says ‘One Country One Law’ that should apply to all communities without exceptions.
    Scrap Muslim Marriage and Divorce laws and Thesawalamei.

    • 2

      “One Country One Law’ that should apply to all communities without exceptions”
      So, you are suggesting that even little Muslim boys should be recruited for the pious joy of the Loku Hamuduruwo?

      • 5

        “One Country One Law” is a Joke.

        Are the Laws that we already have applied equally to all? Isn’t the same Law applied differently to different persons depending on who they are?

        Shouldn’t we make sure, first and foremost, that we apply the Laws that we Already have EQUALLY to ALL before we can even think of “One Country One Law.”

  • 1

    Whimpy – Can you please explain what ‘Arab madness’ means !! Suppose the Arab women start wearing a different dress like ‘Saree’ worn by many South Asian women and if this is copied by Srilankan women ( Muslims , Sinhala and Tamils) will that also be Arab madness !!

  • 5

    There is no question that all women around the world face discrimination and harassment, which is a phenomenon that is well documented. But the discrimination that Muslim women are subject to in many countries is far more blatant and institutionalized and enforced in the name of religion. This makes it very difficult to overcome the injustices heaped on women. And so, religious fundamentalists and male supremacists find it easy to obstruct all efforts to liberate the women.

  • 16

    MohamedM Cannot understand you. Fashion takes many forms and it is OK.

    But Christians don’t have to eat, drink and look towards Jerusalem to be a good Christian.

    Similarly, Buddhist don’t have to act like clones of Nepalese to be a Buddhist.

    They have no allegiance to a foreign power or creed except their own country.

    But Muslims seem like a one brain washed ( brain dead ?) organization, blindly worshipful of a lot of scientifically unacceptable ideas originating in a very uneducated culture more than a thousand yeas ago.

    There are many researches being done into the basis of faith in humans. Apparently it is because ultimately humans are irrational and tribalistic

  • 3

    Mass Usuf’s logic when presented with MMDA and changes to bring SL Muslim women to at least equalt status as other women in SL is to give data points that women are treated not equaliy in SL, Singahala women also been treated bad.. HENCE IS OK TO CONTINUE TO TREAT SL MUSLIM WOMEN ALSO BADLY AND WE CONTINUE WITH THIS CURRENT MMDA.


  • 3

    Mass L. Usuf,

    Are Only Muslim Women, Women?. It is a good question! The answer is definitely No.

    All women are equal !

    You want the Sinhala, Tamil an Muslim women to be treated under one law.

    It is very familiar with “One country One law” concept of Viyathmaga and Gota?

  • 6

    Shamefully seen even in certain CT commentators who lack the skills to rationalize an argument. But generally most Lankan men are chivalrous towards women. They also applaud the opinions of women and do not feel the need to demean, ridicule, and humiliate, but see another humanistic point of view.

  • 2

    Women are discriminated all over the world, even in the world’s “greatest democracy” America women still do not get equal pay, in India women are treated badly when it comes to dowry matters, and little girls are being violently attacked, and women in the Middle East despite all the wealth are also discriminated with no rights. That said, all the Muslim women in Sri Lanka need and want are EQUAL RIGHTS that all other women in our country have already been given. Enough of the primitive laws.
    That is not too much to ask.

  • 3

    A very good Article by Mass Yusuf.

    On the question of Minimum Age for females, in the most Advanced country in the world, the USA, as of July 01, 2019, there is NO Minimum Age in 12 States. In other States, the Minimum Age for Females varies from 12 to 16 years.

    Shouldn’t those who remain focussed on making the minimum age 18, consider the Rules in the USA?

    • 0

      The data provided by you do not seem precise.
      “The minimum underage marriage age, when all mitigating circumstances are taken into account, commonly range from 15 to 17, but is potentially lower in California and Massachusetts. Nine states do not allow a person over 21 to marry an underage person.”
      Check also
      Humans are sexually active by the age of 12, at times earlier.
      What prevent sexual intercourse between male and female are social restrictions that do not always work.
      Marriage is only a license.

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