17 August, 2017

Muslim Law Reform Group Says Muslim Marriage And Divorce Act Violates Women’s Rights, Calls For Equality In New Constitution

While emphasizing that the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) violates the rights of Muslim women, Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Action Group has appealed to the leaders of Sri Lanka and those formulating the new Constitution to uphold a clear vision of equality for all citizens.

Muslim Underage Marriage 1“Do not deny Sri Lankan Muslim women and girls from fully enjoying their fundamental rights as full citizens of this country. Ensure that the new Constitution is in-fact the heart and soul of a progressive nation that refuses to exclude any citizen,” the group which consists of human rights advocates, lawyers, affected women, as well as community and women’s rights groups said in a statement.

According to the group in 2014, a 14-year old Muslim girl in the Eastern province was given in marriage and her schooling was stopped as a result. After a few months of marriage she applied for fasah divorce (initiated by wife) at the Quazi courts, due to severe sexual torture by her husband. The Quazi judge instead of dealing with the case in a sensitive and appropriate manner chose to interrogate her for over two hours asking her specific details about the sexual violence. This in turn caused the girl serious psychological trauma that she attempted suicide and faced severe depression thereafter.

“This case is one of many in which Muslim women and girls are not only affected directly by discriminatory provisions within the 1951 Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), but also as a result of the sub-par Quazi court system set up under the Act, which has untrained and many unqualified Quazi judges,” the statement said.

“There are major concerns that the MMDA violates the rights of Muslim women and limits access to justice, due process and redress. These concerns are with regard to provisions within the Act itself as well as practical problems with procedures and implementation via the Quazi court. Some examples below:

● The Act legally allows child marriage by not stipulating the minimum age of marriage for Muslims as 18 years (under the Act a Quazi judge can even permit the marriage of a child under the age of 12);
● There is no requirement of mandatory and written consent from the bride therefore forced marriages are technically legal;
● There are different conditions of divorce for men and women:
o Only husbands are granted the right to unilateral divorce without reason;
o Process of divorce for wives lengthy, requiring reasons and evidence, witnesses and case hearings;
● The provision for wife and child maintenance is decided arbitrarily by Quazis;
● Under the Act qualified women are not allowed to be marriage registrars, Quazi judges, jurors or Board of Quazi members. These are state-salaried and tax-funded position that legally discriminate against women simply on the basis of sex;
● There is no mandatory requirement of qualifications or mandatory training for Quazis on MMDA;
● The Act allows the practice of polygamy without requirement of consent from the wife/s or wife to be (and often without their knowledge) or without conditions of financial stability,” the statement said.

Muslim women’s groups have been advocating for reforms of the MMDA for over 25 years and there have been at least four official committees set up since 1970’s with no progress on reforms. The current 16-member Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Committee headed by Justice Saleem Marsoof was set up in 2009, by the then Minister of Justice Milinda Moragoda in view that “certain reforms to the Muslim personal law was urgently needed”. Seven years later, the report is still pending.

During the consultations conducted by the Public Representations Committee (PRC) on Constitutional Reforms around the country, many women’s groups and women affected by discriminatory provisions under the MMDA and practices of the Quazi courts brought up concerns regarding the Act. Their submissions were with regard to the fact that the current Constitution grants an exemption for personal laws to violate fundamental rights though the existence of Article 16(1).

“On August 24th 2016, a group of fifteen Muslim women made an appeal to Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe and the rest of the sub-committee drafting the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the new constitution. The appeal was simple – that Article 16(1) is repealed to ensure that the new Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that fundamental rights and gender equality is ensured for all citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity. They avered to the State’s responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of all its people irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other identity markers,” the statement said.

However, the group noted that certain conservative groups among the Muslim community – while acknowledging that there were major problems with the MMDA and its implementation – claimed that repeal of Article 16(1) is not necessary because the Muslim community will reform its own personal law “from within”, in order to address concerns of women and girls.

Therefore, the group said that it is important for the community in general and Muslim women in particular to know the outcome of the committee’s deliberations and as to how it compares with the protection and equality that Muslim women and children can avail of by calling for repeal of Article 16(1) in the new Constitution.

“We appeal to the members of the MPL Reforms Committee, Minister of Justice and Judicial Service Commission to inform the Sri Lankan Muslim community as to when the report is expected to be finalized. Also given its relevance to the constitutional reform discussion outlined above, we kindly request that they immediately share the salient outcomes of the reform discussions to date pending the release of the final report. As the group that had been most intimately involved in this issue over the past seven years their informed intervention at this juncture will be invaluable. Of particular interest will be to see how the recommendations address discriminatory provisions currently in place that violate fundamental rights of Muslim citizens,” the statement said.

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  • 14
    0

    Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Action Group

    RE: Muslim Law Reform Group Says Muslim Marriage And Divorce Act Violates Women’s Rights, Calls For Equality In New Constitution

    Absolutely!

    “Do not deny Sri Lankan Muslim women and girls from fully enjoying their fundamental rights as full citizens of this country. Ensure that the new Constitution is in-fact the heart and soul of a progressive nation that refuses to exclude any citizen,”

    “According to the group in 2014, a 14-year old Muslim girl in the Eastern province was given in marriage and her schooling was stopped as a result. “

    Yes. Do not allow the Mullah’s and Ulema to abuse Muslim Girls and Women in Lanka, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, so that they can exhibit their hegemony, and hide under religion.

    Please also file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court regarding the Abuse of Fundamental Rights.

  • 17
    1

    There is nothing to discuss. Protect all of Sri Lanka’s daughters under Sri Lankan secualr law. Period.

    I cannot believe we have let Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) fester in modern Sri Lanka for so long.

    Wonder where Wahabi Hakeem and Qatari Baludeen stand on this critical question. Will GOSL be held to ransom by those so called Muslim ethno-religious vote blocks again?

    BTW, where are the resident ISLAMISTAS of this forum?

    Fazl, Latheef, Izeth Hussain etc. Where do you stand on this issue guys? Show us your true colours?

    How come you never, ever write a single word about this primitive opression of Muslim Sri Lankan women in this manner? For so long?

    Cheers!

    • 13
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      Yes Izzeth Hussain and the other guys … We are one with you against the BBS. Are you one with us against this reprehensible one sided MMD Act?

    • 4
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      Ben Hurling

      “BTW, where are the resident ISLAMISTAS of this forum? “

      They are evolving back into Primates!

      Stupidest Muslim Vs Neil Tyson – How ideology can ruin intellectual power

      Published on Nov 10, 2014
      This is not a debate between some Muslim and Neil Tyson. But this video shows the thinking of some very well educated 21’st century Muslim (I don’t know he is ignorant, stupid or dishonest. But he is one for sure) and Neil Tyson speaking in a lecture about how Muslims intellectual power ruined by an ideology.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyCxrL9-C84

      Ken Miller on Human Evolution

      Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007
      Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

  • 14
    0

    Quazi court system is following Shariah. They are asking for the same thing in UK & France now, e.g. separate Courts/legal system for Muslims. There should be one set of laws for the country as a whole. Otherwise the Constitution has no value. Even the Police are wasting their time – what law are they enforcing?

  • 5
    0

    Well, it is a good idea that the law of the land is applied equally to all citizens.

    However it can be argued if Buddhism is given a favourable treatment in the constitution then other exceptions can also be made.

    The better option is for a totally secular constitution that treats all citizens as equals, men, women and children. In such a context all laws can be applied to all people equally.

    This law that allows a Muslim man to marry 4 times and the Muslim divorce laws that favour men is an aberration. Why not allow all Muslims to come under the rest of the Sharia law?

    When we have gutless leadership we will have flawed constitutions and continue to have arbitrary application of laws.

  • 6
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    What a shame! Speak up Izzeth Hussain and the gang of pseudo intellectuals.This is apartheid. There cannot be two countries and two sets of laws.

  • 3
    2

    Of course every man and woman must be treated the same regardless of their race, religion, skin color etc. But on the other hand one would say; let the communities look after their own affairs. Empower them to make decisions on their own, a.k.a devolution of power to the provincial council and the local council.
    For example, not only this, Udarata marriage act exits for up country people. So let it be the law or Central Province. May be Southern Province can have its own act which recognizes same sex marriage. That would be the ideal new constitution.

    • 2
      0

      Nuwan,

      I hope U R being sarcastic.

      Cheers!

  • 2
    0

    Sri Lanka has 4 different types of laws when it comes to marriage, there is the Kandyan marriage laws, there is the Thesawalamai marriage law for Jaffna Tamils (not other tamils), the muslim marriage laws for muslims and the good old Roman Dutch marriage laws for the rest of us lesser mortals.

    These are mostly to deal with property ownership, inheritance and property division at time of divorce (only the muslim law allows for multiple marriages).

  • 3
    0

    It was mischievous for the Sri Lankan government to let the Muslims have their own separate Marriage Laws. I presume they have their own divorce Laws too. These laws are grossly unfair to women and at odds with Sri Lankan laws. E.g. It lets a man have multiple wives but not the woman. It also excuses a man abusing his wife. In Divorce, the man automatically gets custody of the children and gets possession of the marital home.

    • 3
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      “It also excuses a man abusing his wife.”

      Yes, that is the point of the law. To give men extreme control over women; in this case, the husband over the wife. Honor killings are also permitted under the Shariah. To prove rape, a woman must have 4 male witnesses.

    • 2
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      Sylvia Haik – “It lets a man have multiple wives but not the woman”

      I is No Wonder MEN are converting to Islam! It is Legal for them!

  • 2
    0

    Some people think this group consists of Sinhalal NGO people. I personally know them and they are a group of “pure” Muslim women who are bold enough to challenge the patriarchal Muslim community with often timid women! Although I say so most Muslim women are not timid, but tradition makes them silent! They suffer in silence! When a chill has sex with a adult man, it becomes abuse irrespective of consent for Sinhala or Tamils! Why should a Muslim be exempt from this law? If we preach equality under the constitution how can a Muslim law overide the constitution? If then the Sharia law should prevail over our own law!! Try to be sensible. Muscle power of men should not overide rights of women? Let this group of women instill sense into our lawmakers! I only hope the power of the vote will not interfere with a coorect decision ….Yahapalanaya! Why can’t the Muslim men in this blog who are prolific writers on human rights support the cause of rights of Muslim women?

  • 0
    1

    Who are the members of the MPL its worth meeting them? Will they identify themselves please

  • 1
    0

    I mean who are the commitee members of the MPL Reforms action group its worthy of a meet

  • 3
    0

    Its not only the laws affecting the Muslim women, Thesavalamai also should be abolished or amended. In Thesavalamai too there are laws, such as a wife cannot sell her property without the husband’s permission.

    • 1
      0

      How about Kandyan Law?

  • 1
    0

    Repealing article 16 (1) of our constitution is about equality and inclusivity, so that many archaic laws like Vagrancy Ordinance, personal laws like Thesavalami and Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act get corrected to be par with the bill of rights chapter of our constitution. This will ensure that the new constitution does not discriminate a single Sri Lankan citizen.

    It is the duty of every right-minded citizens of this country to join this struggle now. Many civil society groups are calling for the repeal of article 16 (1) and it is courageous of the muslim women to coming forward to talk about their community women’s plight and rights violations.

    please read below link which is relevant to this discussion:

    http://scroll.in/article/817034/in-sri-lanka-muslim-women-are-fighting-back-against-unfair-marriage-laws

  • 1
    0

    The anonymous Muslim Personal Law (MPL) Reforms Action Group has suggested some obvious changes to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act. The Group appeals to the “members of the MPL Reforms Committee, Minister of Justice and Judicial Service Commission to……………… address discriminatory provisions currently in place that violate fundamental rights of Muslim citizens”.

    The Group must persuade the Muslim MPs to sponsor the reforms and every MP will support the endeavor. But the Muslim MPs will not.

    One wonders whether the anonymous Group is just a plant to show that there are progressive Muslims. Yet another oxymoron – progressive Muslim!

  • 1
    0

    Hallo, Where have all the Mahinda bashing Muslims here gone?

  • 0
    0

    Sign this petition –> REPEAL ARTICLE 16(1): ENSURE THE NEW SRI LANKAN CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES EQUALITY FOR ALL

    https://www.change.org/p/members-of-steering-committee-on-constitutional-reform-repeal-article-16-1-to-ensure-equality-for-all

    This struggle by Muslim women’s groups and others affected by Article 16(1) is inherently about the right to full protection of fundamental rights that should be guaranteed to them by virtue that they are citizens.

    In the eyes of the State – Muslim women should be citizens first. Lets ensure that happens.

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