MMDA reforms before Cabinet | Daily News

MMDA reforms before Cabinet

A group of Muslim Ministers and Members of Parliament who met yesterday have finalized a draft of proposals containing the amendments to the long overdue Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).

The draft, once signed by the Minister of Muslim religious Affairs, will be presented in the form of a white paper before cabinet.

Former Minister A.H.M Fowize speaking to the Daily News said that the team of Muslim MPs and Ministers have considered the report compiled by a committee led by Justice Saleem Marsoof as well as representations from the All Ceylon Jamithul Ulema that have been made on the necessary amendments to the MMDA.

“We have considered the submissions and recommendations of many including the ACJU and have recommended a set of amendments in accordance with the consensus of all,” he said. “I have asked that it be given to Minister of Justice Thalatha Athukorale on Monday. I cannot say for certain if it will be presented before the Cabinet today, but it is possible.”

The Parliamentarian said that the document will also be signed by Minister of Muslim Religious Affairs M.H.A Haleem before being presented before Cabinet. However, one recommendation has been left out which includes the appointment of qualified women as female quazi. MP Fowize said that the ulema had staunchly opposed the move.

Among the 11-point proposal put forward by the Muslim MPs was to establish the minimum age for marriage as 18, allowing the bride to sign the Register of Marriage as her consent, upgrading the required qualification of a quazi to Attorney-at-Law and permitting female quazi (women who will adjudicate family law of Muslims). These amendments are expected to resolve issues concerning the legal age for marriage, as established by the Act.

Meanwhile, a group of Muslim women representing the Muslim Laws reform action group have called on a holistic approach to making these amendments, cautioning that piecemeal changes may not do justice.

They had requested that the minimum age of marriage for all Muslims to be 18 years without any exception, women be eligible to be appointed as Quazis, as Members of the Board of Quazis, Marriage Registrars, and Assessors (jurors), the MMDA to apply uniformly to all Muslims without causing disadvantage to persons based on sect or madhab, the signature of bride and groom to be mandatory in all marriage documentation to signify consent, registration be required for legal validity of marriage and adult Muslim women to be entitled to equal autonomy and need not require the ‘permission’ by law of any male relative or Quazi to enter into a marriage.

Talaaq (divorce) and Faskh (annulment) rights between women and men must be equal. Procedures for divorce to be same for husband and wife, including appeal process and a revision of the Quazi court system to ensure a competent system with improved access to justice for women and men. It is unclear as to how many of these amendments had been agreed to by the group led by the Muslim MPs and Ministers. 

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