Feb 22, 2006
I am less than impressed by Women, Family and
Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s
new position on the Islamic Family Law (IFL) issue.
When the IFL bill was passed in December, the minister
was vocal in condemning the way the bill was pushed
through; and said that her ministry had identified
even more flaws in the IFL than women’s NGOs.
Recently, however, she seems to have decided that the
IFL is actually okay and that any problems are due
either to misinterpretation of the law, or to how the
IFL had been implemented by syariah judges. I am not
sure which part of this equation Shahrizat feels is
reassuring to those of us who have been so distressed
by various discriminatory provisions in the IFL.
Strangely enough, I find neither the fact that a bill
that was so unclear that the minister herself (a
lawyer by training) needed several months to realise
that the numerous flaws her ministry identified were
all non-existent, is now law; nor the fact that those
who implement our laws are apt to do so in ways which
lead to miscarriages of justice, particularly
If the minister’s intention was to reassure the public
about the problems with the IFL, I suggest she
addresses concrete issues such as how the IFL’s
changing of a provision that a man who wishes to
commit polygamy must show that it is ‘necessary’ and
‘just’, to one that only requires him to show it is
‘necessary’ can be reinterpreted by women as fair and
non-discriminatory to women.