Contrary to what Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki claims, feminists should not and will not support the proposed amendments to Act 355 or better known by it’s Malay abbreviation, RUU355.
Feminism does not aim to achieve justice and equality through imposing higher punishments. It instead, aims to achieve substantive equality by addressing systemic barriers women face daily such as unjust laws, poor implementation of laws and limited access to the justice system due to strained economic conditions, to mention a few. These systemic barriers unfortunately, are not at all addressed in RUU355.
If PAS and Putrajaya were really concerned about women’s rights, they would have supported Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) call to amend the present Islamic Family Law Act 1984 (IFL) – a call which SIS and our supporters have made loud and clear since the inception of this organisation.
Simply increasing punishments for ex-husbands who do not pay maintenance fails to tackle the root of the problems in Syariah courts, such as the provisions in the existing IFL that discriminate against women, poor implementation of the law and the absence of gender sensitivity amongst Syariah court staff. In addition, what evidence have PAS and Putrajaya provided to show that higher punishments will lead to better conditions for women seeking justice in Syariah courts?
If PAS and Putrajaya were really concerned about feminism, they would have supported SIS and other women’s rights groups’ call to review the present Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (SCOE), which have mostly been applied to women, transpeople and individuals who are of lower economic status. If the existing fine amount of RM5000 under Act 355 is already affecting the livelihood of most transwomen, the passing of RUU355 which proposes a RM100 000 fine, will definitely cause more discrimination against them.
What we urgently need is a complete review of the Syariah legal system, because if we allow RUU355 to be passed without reviewing the existing IFL and SCOE, we will be leaving the doors to potential abuse of power and discrimination wide open.
As the scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said, “The foundation of Islamic Syariah lies in its practical and egalitarian social ideas which include justice, welfare, mercy and wisdom for all without regards for gender race of nationality, and anything that departs from this is not a part of the Syariah.” Therefore SIS, as a Muslim feminist organisation, reiterate our objection to RUU355 for it is a law that is unfeminist, unjust and most importantly, un-Islamic.
Sisters in Islam
23 January 2017