• No. 4 Lorong 11/8E, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

Uncertainty over Syariah Court Matters a Concern for Women during MCO

In light of the extension of the Movement Control Order (MCO) until 28 April 2020, Sisters in Islam (SIS) continues to remain operational as usual. Our Telenisa service, a free legal helpline that provides a non-judgemental and rights-based advisory service on Islamic Family and Syariah Laws has been extended Monday to Friday from 8 am to 10 pm and has been moved to a temporary phone number at 011-2370 1006 during the MCO period.

The extension of the hours is based on our clients, who, the majority are women. That being so, women who are mothers, daughters and wives may be busy caring for their families and dependents during the day and thus, the availability of our helpline after hours may afford them greater accessibility to our services. Furthermore, the extension is also based on cases on marital or family disruption, especially when abuse or violence is involved, the victims may only have a short window of opportunity to reach out for help and support. We remain concerned that those in need of assistance are unable to obtain the help they need.

Thus, we would like to inform the public that we, together with a number of NGOs and Talian Kasih 15999 which is coordinated by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development remain available to provide assistance.
In relation to Syariah matters that affect Muslims in Malaysia, the Malaysian Syariah Judicial Department has announced on 25 March 2020 that the majority of matters within its jurisdiction will be conducted online.

The clients we have received over the course of the MCO have voiced their uncertainty in terms of their position under the law. Matters that were brought up include:

– How will matters that were due in court during the time of the MCO be dealt with? For example, one of our clients had an interim custody order which was due to expire during the time of the MCO. Thus, she is unable to have an extension of that court order nor is she able to have a hearing for a permanent order. What is her position now?

– How will visitation rights of one spouse be treated? With the MCO, some of our clients are unable to move freely to send or pick up their children for visitation rights. In one case, her child was ill and thus she was very concerned about exposing her child to the COVID-19 virus as a result of her child travelling to another house. Is visitation rights one of the permitted reasons for travel? Has this been coordinated with other authorities such as the police?

– Maintenance remains an issue. In many cases, our clients do not have bank accounts thus a transfer of money may not be possible, and with the MCO, physical delivery of the maintenance support may not be possible.

– One client is concerned that her divorce case is pending during the MCO and she has not heard from the courts whether a new date has been set for it.

– Matters related to domestic violence remains a major issue where queries for shelter, police reports and so on are still common.

We urge that there be clear and definitive clarifications on the treatment of cases such as the above from the Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department so as to deal with the queries above. It is imperative that the information is disseminated widely to the public to assure the persons affected of their position under the Syariah laws. We urge the authorities to provide attention to this matter urgently.

Sisters in Islam

13 April 2020

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