Quazi’s unaware of MMDA | Daily News

Quazi’s unaware of MMDA

Discriminatory provisions within the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) of 1951 and the Quazi Court system have disproportionally led to Muslim women not being able to access justice within the law, according to a recent qualitative study released by FOKUS WOMEN.

The MMDA which solely applies to marriages and divorces within the Muslim community is mainly administered through 65 Quazi courts in the country.

Independent Researcher, Hyshyma Hamin who studied the Quazi courts and the MMDA through 31 women in Puttalam and Batticaloa said: “We found that due procedures were not being followed in the Quazi courts and more often than not the Quazis themselves were not aware of the MMDA.

In addition the women were not informed of due procedure or the ongoing process, were being coerced into accepting Quazi judgments especially when it came to deciding on maintenance payments, were harassed in courts with requests for explicit sexual details of the relationship and asked not to speak to only allowing her ‘male’ guardian address the court.

“In one instance, the woman was asked to sign a blank sheet of paper and then told that she had just signed consent to divorce,” said Hamin.

The courts themselves who were mostly underfunded did not function according to any system of uniformity. At many an instance, they were being held in public spaces where neighbours and men in the area would attend to listen into the intimate details of the case. “Women do not usually come to watch these sessions,” she said.

The research which also looked into the cultural environment in which the courts functioned, noted that they shared a close relationship with the mosque committees and federations in the area and the latter often interloped into affairs of the court.

“The Quazi would at times ask that the mosque investigate into certain cases and then you had these committees intervening in cases of domestic violence, coercing couples to reconcile or forcing people to get married,” pointed out Hamin.

The MMDA however gave the mosque committees no authority to intervene. In Puttalam, the research observed that a certain Quazi was also in charge of the mosque committee.

Bribery and extortion not uncommon in the judiciary has also steeped into the Quazi courts with it affecting more women than men.

“It is not uncommon to have husbands bribing the Quazi to rule in their favour or to have the Quazi charge the women for stamp, photocopy and application fees,” said Hamin.

These problems which have been ingrained within the Quazi court system for many years however, will not be solved with providing Quazis with training and increasing their salaries alone, observed Hamin.

Systemic issues such as no monitoring system, lack of state oversight and community intimidation and harassment of Muslim women to keep issues within the community, also needed to be taken into account.

“Many Muslim women do not have access to services such as women’s organisations or the police due to fear of the community they live in,” said Hamin.

Many of the systematic discriminations against women have been legally validated by the MMDA, where no amendments have been allowed for the last 40 years. 

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