Malaysia: Family Law BillÂ Issues forÂ Malaysian Muslim Women
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: October 6, 2015
Malaysia: Family Law Bill Issues for Malaysian Muslim Women
4/01/2006: We have received this open appeal for support from
like-minded Muslim organizations and individuals around the globe to protest the
recent passing of the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill
2005 by the Malaysian Senate.
To the ire of Malaysians of all faiths,
both men and women, the Upper House of the Malaysian Parliament passed the
Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (Amendment) Bill 2005 on 23 December
2005. The Bill was passed unanimously despite vehement objections from several
women’s groups and severe objections from at least 12 women Senators. The
Senators ultimately voted in favour of the Bill, because the ruling party
invoked a three-line whip on potentially dissenting Senators.
we feel these amendments:
- Are extremely damaging to women, and;
- Were passed in an absence of transparency and full democratic process.
world. We value, and humbly thank you for, your support and concern.
Sisters in Islam
WHAT YOU CAN DO
We now need your support.
It would be extremely helpful if like-minded Muslims around the globe expressed
their concern to the Malaysian government regarding this issue.
several women’s groups, both secular and faith-based, have responded vehemently
to the passing of this Bill. Several ordinary citizens of all faiths, men and
women, have also been writing to the press, and to the Malaysian government, to
express their outrage over this issue. A group calling itself Muslim Men for
Gender Equality has also issued letters to the press protesting the passing of
The five clauses of the Bill that were objected
- Making polygamy easier by amending the existing condition of “just and
necessary” to “just or necessary”.
- Increasing the husband’s power to divorce by extending fasakh – judicial
order for dissolution of marriage – to the husband as well. The provision for
fasakh previously granted women 12 grounds for divorce. The amendment to this
is discriminatory because the husband still retains his unilateral right to
divorce (talak) anywhere, anytime without reason, and even through sms.
- Enabling husbands to prevent the disposition of property by a wife or
former wife, in order to protect the husband or former husband’s financial
claims on the woman’s property. This amendment, already adopted in Johor
state, has led to our first case of a husband obtaining a court order to
freeze the bank accounts of his wife in order to claim matrimonial property.
- Removing the husband’s responsibility of maintenance in cases of polygamy
or divorce. A new section forces the wife of her polygamous husband to choose,
as alternatives, either to apply for order of maintenance or to apply for
order of division on joint matrimonial property (harta sepencarian).
- Enabling the husband to claim harta sepencarian from his wife or existing
wives, in cases of polygamy or divorce.
we will see some glaring contradictions between laws in Malaysia and laws in the
rest of the Muslim world, for example:
In the case of polygamy, Tunisia
bans it on the understanding of Surah An-Nisa, Verse 129, that no husband can
treat their wives equally.
Regarding rights to divorce, in Bangladesh
and Pakistan, wives can instate an optional clause in their taqliq (marriage
contracts) to claim talak tafweed (where the right to divorce is given to the
wife without losing her rights to guardianship nor property).
an overall reframing of Muslim personal status laws, Morocco has produced an
amended Moudawana that has been hailed as one of the most progressive Muslim
family law codes in the world, in terms of securing gender equality and justice.
In reality, the Islamic Family Law Bill was amended in 1984, and these
amendments were a good step towards securing Muslim women’s rights within
marriage at that time. However, a series of amendments in 1994 rolled back
several of these rights. Muslim women have since suffered greatly, whether due
to biases in the Shari’ah judicial process or gender bias in the substance of
the law itself. Furthermore, Islamic laws fall under the jurisdiction of the
individual states in the federation, and hence these laws were not streamlined
for a long time. This latest series of amendments is ostensibly meant to
streamline the different versions of Malaysia’s Islamic family laws to ensure
more effective application, but has instead exacerbated the vulnerability of
Muslim women in marriage.
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