Sentencing on polygamy

Sisters In Islam support the decision on ‘polygamy without consent’ made by the Kota Baru Syariah Court. The Kelantan State Assembly Speaker Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah was found guilty of committing polygamy without the consent of  the Syariah Court and the local authority.

Polygamous marriages performed outside the country have become the norm for husbands who want to take another wife. The said marriage can still be registered although it was made without the consent of the court. The Syariah Courts have been reluctant to impose jail sentences on such offences and the fine is usually too little. It does not act as a deterrent as once the fine is paid the polygamous marriage can still be registered and deemed legal under the law.

The Syariah Courts must take active measures to address, and where appropriate,  fill the lacunas that currently exist in the relevant provision. The current wife is normally not made aware of the husband’s subsequent marriage. Sisters In Islam received many complaints by women whose husbands are obviously not qualified (in terms of ability as required by the religion, financial means and other requirements) to marry another but had taken an  easier route by marrying across the border. The first wife is then ignored or has to slog to support her family as the husband is unable to maintain them.

We propose that the jail sentence and the fine imposed should reflect the seriousness of the offence i.e. that such persons had blatantly ignored the law. Fines imposed must have a deterrent effect. If a husband can afford to go out of the country, pay for accommodation, food, mas-kahwin, dowry, wedding trousseau, fee for kadhi, marriage fee and others; surely he can afford to pay a deterrent fine. Appeals to lower the fine should not be entertained by the Syariah Courts. In the case of Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah the RM1800.00 fine is neither burdensome nor a deterrent.

We further purpose that the current wife should be called to the court when her husband is seeking the court’s permission to register the polygamous marriage. This is not only to inform the wife of the marriage but also to allow her to make any necessary application to the Court. She may apply for maintenance, her children’s maintenance and others from the husband.

We hope Mahkamah Syariah will be more strict in handling the issue of non consensual polygamy.

Sisters In Islam