February 15, 2006
Little Miss Fickle
The Islamic Family Law Bill was passed in December last year and created a host of complaints, uproar and cries from womens’ activist and other human rights groups. Other Muslim women groups, however, seem to deny that the Bill truly encroaches upon womens’ rights. Let’s look at the debate.
The recent passing of the Islamic Family Law Bill (Federal Territories) (Amendments) Bill 2005 by the Senate is the latest in a series of alarming trends that are damaging to women. These amendments, which have been passed and gazetted in 12 states in Malaysia, now give men even more power to divorce their wives, to contract polygamous marriages and also to freeze the assets of their wife/wives to claim matrimonial property, while women are denied effective remedies.
While amendments made to the Islamic Family Law Bill seemed to be welcome on the surface, Sisters in Islam says this:
However, these two positive amendments and other amendments contain loopholes and weaknesses that are open to abuse and will further discriminate against women.
Section 23(9)(b): The gender neutral language used in this amendment masks existing inequalities between men and women. While it enables a wife to claim her share of harta sepencarian, it also enables a husband to claim from his wife or existing wives.
This is open to abuse by irresponsible husbands. In practice, the amendment could enable a husband to force the sale of the matrimonial home or to claim that property given as gifts to the wife to be harta sepencarian in order to support his subsequent dependents. This will cause injustice to the first wife and children.
And to the nation’s surprise, our very own Minister of Women, Family and Community Development has made a turnabout in her opinion. First, she said this:
Women, Family and Community Minister Shahrizat Jalil has upped her rhetoric, saying she will petition the nine Sultans who are the religious heads in their states, to appeal for the bill to be substantially amended.Shahrizat said Malaysian women were slighted by the law and that their rights needed to be protected by correcting discriminatory clauses.
And then turned around to say that the Islamic Family Law Bill is not flawed. Make up your mind, woman! It’s no wonder men accuse us of being fickle in nature. We certainly have exemplary behaviour from the country’s leading
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