Call for Reform to Muslim Personal Law and equality for Muslim women

On February 20th, representatives from Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group (MPLRAG) made statements to the UN CEDAW Committee at the 66th session reviewing Sri Lanka’s status on women’s rights issues. Points included: 

  • Calling for Sri Lankan government to uphold responsibility to reform Muslim Personal Law (MMDA), taking into account the practical lived realities of Sri Lankan Muslim women and addressing all grievances faced by Muslim women and girls;
  • Calling for Sri Lankan government to ensure that Muslim women and girls are treated as equals under the law and not legally discriminated in any way; 
  • Calling for repeal of Article 16 of the Constitution in order to allow for judicial review of legislation to support with the reforms process. 

The statement read as follows: 

“The Muslim Personal Law continues to render Sri Lankan Muslim women and girls as second-class citizens. The law permits child marriage. It requires adult women to obtain guardian’s consent, prohibits women from being Quazi judges or registrars, which are state-salaried positions, allows polygamy without conditions or consent of wives. There are also procedural and practical issues faced by women in the Quazi (Muslim) courts, which inhibit their equal access to justice and due process.

The State has abdicated its responsibility to reform Muslim Personal Law, on the ground that it is a matter for the Muslim community. We strongly object to this stance. Despite multiple government committees, with predominantly Muslim men, appointed to review the Muslim personal law since 1990, none of these efforts have been yet fruitful. In 2011, recommendations by the CEDAW Committee called for an inclusive process of engagement, in particular women’s groups in the reforms process. However recent backlash from conservative Muslim groups has created a hostile environment where women activists, advocates and affected women who gave testimonies, have been intimidated.

The State must muster its political will to ensure that Muslim women are treated as equals under the law. Over 66 years of state-sanctioned systemic discrimination against Muslim women and girls must end!”

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