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Reconciling with the MMDA

24 August 2019 02:39 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Reconciliation is not only for victims of war. It is a concept which should reach out to every citizen of Sri Lanka equally. Consultations that were carried out countrywide showed that while equity and fairness are vital concepts, there is also a need for targeted assistance (Final Report of the CTF, 59) for vulnerable groups considering the specific ways in which they experience harm.   
 
"Following the Easter attacks, public discourse on the MMDA has  heightened with politically vested parties twisting the plot to suit  their biases. While the entire Muslim community was branded as  terrorists and marginalized purely based on their ethnicity, the MMDA  served as an added point of pressure. But those voices do not have the  best interest of Muslim women at heart"
 
Women in this case were identified as vulnerable because of the way they experience harm in a patriarchal context (Final Report of the CTF, 59). Although our understanding of reconciliation is largely limited to our post-conflict context, the vulnerabilities and inequalities faced by women extend to a time before and after the conflicts have passed.   
Recent discussions about the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) are a case in point and have brought to light how even out of the context of war, women are not able to enjoy the same rights as men. Many women’s groups have spoken up about the unequal treatment and violation of rights faced by women through the MMDA and the Quazi court system as it is and have been advocating for MMDA reforms since the 1950s.  
 

A closer look at what needs to be reformed are as follows:

 
The MMDA has no minimum age of marriage, allowing for the marriage of girls even under 12 years of age  
Consent from the bride is not required, instead women must seek the consent of a male relative or a Quazi (tax-funded position with legal authority within Quazi courts) before entering marriage  
Divorce conditions are not equal for men and women   
Polygamy without the consent of the wife or without verification of the husband’s ability to maintain multiple wives is allowed  
Women are not allowed to be Quazis, jurors, or on the Board of 
Quazi members  
 

Why has there been no solution for so long?

 
Several committees have been set up periodically since 1970 to address this demanding issue but have consistently fallen short of providing a solution for Muslim women victimized by the outdated MMDA.   
In 2009 a committee headed by President’s Counsel and former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Saleem Marsoof was set up to recommend amendments to the MMDA. It was nine years later in 2018, following serious public pressure, that a Committee Report was finally submitted. However, the committee could not arrive at an agreement on some crucial aspects that affect women resulting in two split reports, each claiming to be more aptly based on Islamic law than the other.   
More than 50 years has passed with no reforms to the MMDA. Making up more than 50% of the population, it is a wonder that even as late as the year 2019, women still hold the short end of the stick.   
 
"In 2009 a committee headed by President’s Counsel and former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Saleem Marsoof was set up to recommend amendments to the MMDA. It was nine years later in 2018, following serious public pressure, that a Committee Report was finally submitted. However, the committee could not arrive at an agreement on some crucial aspects that affect women"
 
Following the Easter attacks, public discourse on the MMDA has heightened with politically vested parties twisting the plot to suit their biases. While the entire Muslim community was branded as terrorists and marginalized purely based on their ethnicity, the MMDA served as an added point of pressure. But those voices do not have the best interest of Muslim women at heart. Instead, the same violent mobs burnt down the homes and shops of innocent civilians. And in an outrageous and deplorable attempt to combat extremism, these groups in turn inflicted terror on the Muslim community.  
The MMDA reforms should not be used as a tool for racism. Doing so has only doubly marginalized the victims, first as women and then as Muslims. Reforming the Act is a way for minority concerns to be heard and materialized. To use it as a form of discrimination or to cause tension among ethnic groups is to divert the conversation away from the real issue, which is the urgent need to give Muslim women the same agency and rights as all other women in Sri Lanka while respecting and adhering to their cultural/religious beliefs. It is a form of reconciliation, and a path to creating a more equal Sri Lanka.
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


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