Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) as a member of JAG reiterates the call by Sisters In Islam to suspend the IFL for further review and scrutiny.
WAO would like to share our experience in dealing with Muslim women who seek counselling and advice from our social workers when they face matrimonial problems.
WAO statistics show that in 2004, 37% of the residents at the Refuge, and 26% of clients for telephone counseling were Muslim women. The majority of the women were experiencing problems related to polygamous husbands.
The threat of polygamy and a husband entering into a polygamous marriage can be a form of mental abuse, and in fact amounts to domestic violence. Women identify this experience as trauma making them feel powerless, unloved and abandoned. The women reveal that the fear of having to live in a polygamous marriage is used to control and coerce them in their marriage.
The amendments to the IFL has created a relaxation of the conditions for polygamy, where it is amended from the present ‘just and necessary’ to ‘just or necessary’, will make it much easier for men to be polygamous. This will put women in a more vulnerable situation, thus more open to abuse.
Furthermore the gender neutral language used in the section on matrimonial property will also enable the husband to obtain a court injunction to prevent the disposition of property by a wife or former wife. This will further compound the financial problems that many women are already facing.
A repeated problem faced by the women who seek our services is access to maintenance from their husbands. The lack of financial support to many of the women makes it very hard for them to raise their families.
The present IFL can be a threat to the peace and security of a family and more public education is needed to spell out the potential dangers and injustice this law poses to the rights of women and children in a Muslim family. While Malaysia can boast of many rights accorded to women, the 2005 amendments IFL signal a step back.
Women’s Aid Organisation
TEL: 03 79575636