Muslim women's rights organisations around the country yesterday urged the government to implement necessary reforms to Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).
Veteran Human Rights Activist Deshabandu Jezima Ismail addressing the media conference said that MMDA has been widely discussed for a long period with the current act permitting child marriages in the country.
She recollected that there were many incidents in the past which women who had visited her for counselling because of oppressed situations in their lives due to the present act.
“It is not only the laws. It is the legal system that has also broken down in the country,” she said.
She said that this issue has been running in the country for a long period of time and they had established the Muslim Research and Action Forum.
“As it’s a man-made law, amendments are compulsory where there is a necessity,” Counsel Ermiza Tegal said at the conference.
She said that the act does not need a change in 'bits and pieces' which make no difference to Muslim women's lives.
They also highlighted that Muslim lawmakers had agreed to a 14 points proposal to amend the MMDA in July but certain groups had protested on behalf of the reforms.
In their press release, the groups had pointed out several issues which needed reforms in the Act. They are:
Minimum age of marriage for all Muslims must be 18 without any exceptions.
Women should be eligible to be appointed as Quazis (a Muslim court judge), members of the Board of Quazis, marriage registrars, jurors, and registrars.
MMDA must apply to all Muslims irrespective of their sect.
Signature of both the bride and bridegroom is mandatory in an official marriage.
Mandatory registration required for the legal validity of a marriage.
Polygamy to be permissible only under exceptional circumstances, with just cause, under specific conditions including financial capacity, consent of all parties, and with court authorisation.
Procedures for divorce initiated by husband and wife must be the same.
Expand dowry to include immovable assets and make recoverable at the time of divorce. Granting and obtaining dowry without recording during marriage registration to be illegal and be subjected to a penalty.
Introduce, recognise, and facilitate the concept of the marriage contract to be entered into by a Muslim couple prior to marriage.
Upgrade the quality of the quazi court system as effective family-friendly courts by improving the qualifications of quazis to ensure efficient access to justice for women and men, and a robust monitoring mechanism. (Yoshitha Perera)
Pix by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe
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