Islamic Family Laws sign now

Islamic Family Laws: Stop Discrimination Against Women!

We, the undersigned, are Malaysian men and women from all faith backgrounds concerned about the continual erosion of the rights of women, in particular Muslim women, in Malaysia.

Over the last two decades, the trend of amendments to our Islamic family laws have systematically undermined womens position in marriage by creating unfair conditions regarding polygamy, divorce, maintenance and child custody that benefit men and disadvantage women.

Furthermore, the application of these laws in the Shariah judicial process is also heavily skewed to favour men over women. The press and womens organisations are rife with reports of how Muslim women are not given a fair and just hearing in our Shariah courts in family matters.

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. With this Bill, men now have 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.

We also regret that, amidst an encouraging trend across several Muslim countries to reform Islamic family laws in accordance to current needs for gender equality and justice, Malaysia has instead chosen to institute reforms that are regressive and even more unjust to women. A recent success story in the Muslim world is the passing of Moroccos new Moudawana (Code of Personal Status) that effectively captures the spirit of gender equality and justice. This, we feel, is a model Islamic family law code that Malaysia should be emulating.

To ensure that the rights of women, in particular Muslim women do not continue to be violated, but instead are upheld and advanced, we call on the Malaysian government to:

Not gazette this Bill in the Federal Territory, and to place a moratorium on the implementation of this Bill in states that have adopted these amendments
Consult womens groups in drafting a new Muslim Family Law based on the principles of justice and equality
Establish a Parliamentary Select Committee to hold public hearings throughout the country, so that the voices of ordinary citizens can be heard and reflected in a law that governs their personal lives
Respect universal human rights, especially of Muslim women in marriage, and to explore alternative interpretations of Islamic law that uphold gender equality and universal human rights

We sincerely and categorically believe that gender equality applies to all citizens and residents of Malaysia, regardless of race or religion. This is in line with the spirit of the Federal Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which Malaysia ratified in 1995, and also the humble teachings of all world religions.

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Ken AndersenBy:
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The Malaysian Government

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