The Women’s Action Network (a collective of nine women’s rights groups) Condemns Misogynic Conduct of Muslim Members of Parliament towards female MMDA reform Committee Member
The reform discussion of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) has resurfaced in the last few weeks and with that, the usual mud sliding on the Muslim women and victims, who have been demanding for reform of this discriminatory law has also been hyping up. The demand for reform, in short, is to make MMDA to be in compliance with the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution and bring its administration of justice within the national judicial system. Recently a statement signed by 18 male Muslim Members of Parliament initiated by a senior lawyer as the chair of the ‘Muslim Civil Society Alliance’ which included All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema, The All Ceylon YMMA Conference, The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and the National Shoora Council surfaced. What these men basically demand for is the retention of the exclusivist Quazi system and ‘conditional’ polygamy.
In the meantime, there were a series of YouTube videos in which Justice Saleem Marsoof (as the chair of a former MMDA reform committee) and many young women reform advocates have been labeled as NGOs and accused of discrediting and betraying the community. This actually reminded Women’s Action Network (WAN) members how Nationl Tawheed Jamat (NTJ) and Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamat (SLTJ) attacked our members, the ground level women activists when they started to expose the injustice committed against Muslim women and children under the MMDA administered through the male only Quazi system. In fact, many of us complained, approached the police and even went to court but no support came our way. Later we all were left to wonder, in vain, how the Easter Sunday bombers in 2019 emerged from within our own community.
On the 8th December 2022, the Justice Minister Hon. Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC., called for a consultation with the Muslim parliamentarians and the members of the reform committee appointed by former justice minister Ali Sabry, PC. that continues to work with the current justice minister. We hear disturbing behaviours by some of the elected representatives towards the one and only female committee member who was present there – particularly MP Rishard Bathiudeen calling her an NGO representative and Minister Nazeer Ahamed – warning her for speaking out the truth, especially on the sufferings of the Muslim women.
WAN vehemently condemns this unruly and unethical conduct of some of these elected representatives. The reform committee members came to the parliament accepting the invitation of the justice minister as experts on the topic and the MPs should have had the presence of mind to have listened to her expertise, especially when it came from a female lawyer with long years of experience dealing with thousands of affected women, instead of trying to shout down and intimidate her. This itself demonstrates their respect for their own community’s learned women. We are standing in solidarity with the position taken by the female representatives of this committee and we will continue to give our support to them and expose anyone who attempts suppress and/or threaten them for their stand.
We wish to recall that not heeding the whistle blowing by women, as early as in February 2019, about Zaharan Cassim’s violent extremism, including by the then Muslim ministers and failure to prevent extremism resulted in the horrendous trajedy that befell all of us from which we are still struggling to recover. The intolerance towards Muslim women advocating for equality and transperancy and the demand to retain the exclusive Quazi system outside the mainstrem judiciary is to perputate the suppression of Muslim women and to contribute towards entrenching inequality and non transperancy within the community.