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Muslim women urge reforms to ‘unjust, Man-made’ laws

A collective of Muslim women activists representing different organisations called for immediate reform of the Muslim Marriage Divorce Act (MMDA), which they said is an Act which causes “grave injustices” to Muslim women in Sri Lanka.

Addressing a press conference held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) today (26 July), Muslim women said that there have been efforts to reform the MMDA for 40 years and it recently came up for discussion after Muslim MPs agreed to recommend the amendments to MMDA on 11 July.

“We are asking for amendments regarding the Man-made laws affecting the women of Sri Lanka. It affects both men and women but the discrimination and difficulties are faced by the Muslim women,” former Minister Ferial Ashraff said.

Ermiza Tegal, a lawyer who works with the Muslim community pointed out that the current MMDA which came to place in 1951 is a piece of Sri Lankan legislation crafted by men and passed in the Legislature of men.  

Muslim women activists, representing all women of the community, therefore, demand immediate reforms of MMDA including the following,

  • The minimum age of marriage for all Muslims must be 18 years without any exceptions
  • Women should be eligible to be appointed as Quazis, Members of the Board of Quazis, Marriage Registrars, assessors (jurors) and registrars.
  • Polygamy to be permissible only under exceptional circumstances, with just cause, under specific conditions including financial capacity, consent of all parties, and with court authorization.
  • Signature/thumbprint of bride and groom is mandatory in all official marriage documentation. Adult Muslim women are entitled to equal autonomy and need not require the ‘permission’ by the law of any male relative or Quazi to enter into a marriage.
  • The MMDA must apply uniformly to all Muslims without causing disadvantage to persons based on sector madhab (school of jurisprudence).

Asked if the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposing the reforms, Ashraff said that the ACJU approved most of the reforms and there were only a few suggestions which the ACJU have failed to accept.  

“MMDA is one of the laws of the country enacted by the parliament of Sri Lanka. It’s a manmade law and not a God-made law. As it is manmade law amendments are compulsory and necessary,” the activists added.

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