Instead of standardising Syariah criminal laws in the country, Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Rawa and the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia (MKI) should have prioritised ensuring the uniformity of Islamic Family Laws (IFL) and the increase in minimum age of marriage between all states in Malaysia.
The announcement made by MKI yesterday proves that political will and strong leadership are all it takes in order for the process of standardisation to take place.
When Malaysia first introduced IFL in 1984, it was lauded as being one of the most progressive in the world. Nevertheless, several rounds of amendments were done since then which not only regressed its ability to protect the interests of women, but also fractured its capability to uphold justice and equality for women.
The current state of IFL in Malaysia is in shambles as it dangerously and unfairly exposes women to being victims of the system.
For example, laws amended in 1994 has allowed illegal marriages without the court’s permission to be registered upon payment of a small fee. This has resulted in new marriages being secretly solemnised in Thailand. The current provisions for polygamous marriages continue to cause devastating structural, emotional and economic consequences borne by all family members, including and especially onto children.
Another area that MKI must prioritise and forward for standardisation is the minimum age of marriage for children.
Despite a directive from our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last year, only literally a handful of states have committed towards ending child marriage with many other states refusing. A plan for standardisation which is led directly by Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Rawa’s office as suggested by MKI will not only pave the way to push this important agenda forward, but also do so in a way which is consultative and therefore binding to all states.
The priority of MKI should be the standardisation of IFL and child marriage for all states in Malaysia. Standardisation and improvements in these areas are important in ensuring justice and equality in Muslim families, which directly contributes to the social and economic strength of our country.
Sisters in Islam
16 June 2019