Minister, What’s Your Current Stand?

Bregitta Wong Fui Lin
Feb 16, 2006

I refer to the current uproar regarding the situation on the Islamic Family Law amendments, in which the law now contained provisions that give men more power to divorce their wives, to contract polygamous marriages and also to freeze the assets of their wife/wives to claim their share of matrimonial property at the time of polygamy and divorce.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil made statements recently regarding the law, in which she earlier fought hard for in protection of the rights of women and children but now has changed her stand on the law.

As a citizen of this country, it makes me wonder what kind of minister she is and as a women (but not of Islamic religion), I feel insecure and terrified that we, in our country, that we have ministers who back into their own words. There is a Malay saying “Jilat balik air liur sendiri”. That is exactly what Shahrizat is doing now, which goes to show how inconsistent and unreliable she is to the rakyat. I hereby strongly urge the Shahrizat, to clarify her position on this matter, instead of brushing it off over acknowledged flaws by claiming ‘greyness’ in the law.

Some of her recent statements in the local media, which I think you are aware of, but would like to make it a point to highlight.

“The problem lies with the way in which the law was interpreted and not my stand on the matter.”

“I am not going to choose sides on the issue, but we will also take into account the issues brought up by the NGOs over any provisions that may be unclear and cause confusion.”

Interpreting law has never been easy, but when it comes to the rights of a woman or even just plain human rights, no interpretation will be just. And it also depends on who interprets the law, and on what basis is the law interpreted.

Another thing that made me really concerned was that Shahrizat’s statements regarding certain NGOs have poisoned the minds of Malaysian women regarding the law. This just goes to show that she has underestimated the intelligence of Malaysian women, who can read and understand what the bill states and what it means to their interests and sense of fair play.

As a woman myself, I feel the injustice of the unequal status in life and in law. That’s when women, or any other human being, will lobby for an amendment to the law, in order to make it right and to justify it. This is what all the local NGOs have been trying to do. And in with the initial support of Shahrizat, things seemed to be moving on. But her recent change of mind and stand has angered many female citizens, including myself.

I hereby strongly call for a new model of Islamic Family Law based on the principles of justice and equality to deal with the realities of changing times and circumstances affecting Muslim men and women, and the family institution in Malaysia.

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