Muslim Marriage and Divorce – Muslim politicos agree to amend Act

Faiszer Musthapha

Muslim politicians are reported to have agreed to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) on four categories including that of increasing the marriageable age to 18, but disagreement over four other categories had hampered the process of enacting the amendments,

In a statement, MP Faiszer Musthapha outlined the four categories agreed upon by Muslim politicians — the legal age of marriage for the bride and groom to be 18, incorporating the requirement of the bride to sign the register of marriage signifying consent to the marriage, the qualification of Quazis to Attorney-at-Law and allow women to be Quazis.

However, they are yet to agree on matters of unilateral divorce by husbands and unequal divorce procedures for women and men, unconditional polygamy without proof of financial capacity of husbands or consent of all parties, the requirement of women to obtain permission from male guardians to marry and the lack of uniform application of MMDA across sects and madhabs or schools of jurisprudence.

The All Ceylon Jamyyathul Ulama (ACJC) is expected to meet political representatives to discuss these matters.

A lobby group identified as the Muslim Personal Law Reforms Action Group stresses the need for the MMDA to be applied uniformly to all Muslims without causing disadvantage to persons based on sect or madhab.

It also urges the abolishing of polygamy or permit it only under exceptional circumstances or specific conditions that include financial capacity, consent of all parties involved and with the authorization of Court. The lobby group said the MMDA should recognise the Mubarat or the mutual consent form of divorce.

The lobby group said procedures for divorce initiated by husband and wife must be the same, including the appeal process. It says granting and obtaining dowry (kaikuli) without recording during the marriage registration should be deemed illegal and involve a penalty. It says dowry should be expanded to include immovable assets and recovery at the time of divorce.

It urged the upgrade the Quazi Court system and improve the quality of Quazis, to ensure competent, efficient access to justice for women and men, as well as a robust monitoring mechanism. In the event all areas of discrimination under MMDA are not addressed, to allow Muslim couples the option to marry under the General Marriage Registration Ordinance (GMRO).

(Source: Daily Mirror – By Kelum Bandara)