KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — A progressive Muslim women’s group today criticised a minister and a government council for not prioritising the standardisation of Islamic family laws standardisation or raising the minimum marriage age across the country.
In a press statement today, Sisters in Islam (SIS) said that it only takes political will for the two reforms to take place, instead of standardising Shariah criminal laws in Malaysia as announced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
“The current state of IFL (Islamic family law) in Malaysia is in shambles as it dangerously and unfairly exposes women to being victims of the system.
“For example, laws amended in 1994 has allowed illegal marriages without the court’s permission to be registered upon payment of a small fee. This has resulted in new marriages being secretly solemnised in Thailand.
“The current provisions for polygamous marriages continue to cause devastating structural, emotional and economic consequences borne by all family members, including and especially onto children,” said SIS in the statement.
SIS recalled that in its first incarnation in 1984, the IFL was lauded as among the most progressive marriage legislation in the world. However, several rounds of amendments had regressed the laws in its ability to protect women’s interest and uphold justice and equality for them.
The group also claimed that the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia (MKI) and Mujahid had basically ignored instructions from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last year to end child marriages by standardising the minimum marriageable age for children.
“Despite a directive from our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last year, only literally a handful of states have committed towards ending child marriage with many other states refusing.
“A plan for standardisation which is led directly by Datuk Seri Mujahid Rawa’s office as suggested by MKI will not only pave the way to push this important agenda forward, but also do so in a way which is consultative and therefore binding to all states.
“The priority of MKI should be the standardisation of IFL and child marriage for all states in Malaysia,” the statement said.
Mujahid announced yesterday that the MKI has decided to propose a new draft of Shariah criminal law that it would suggest to all states to take up so that the country would have a uniform law. Shariah law is under state jurisdiction, which means different states have the autonomy to practice their own versions of the law.