Shariah Courts Need Urgent Reforms To Protect Women




The MP for Petaling Jaya, Maria Chin Abdullah, may have been ill-advised to comment on an ongoing, high profile custody battle but many people will agree that she has brought much needed attention to the shariah court system
Many women feel the shariah system has failed them. Only the victims, such as abandoned wives and single mothers, and their close families, are aware that the system is in urgent need of reform and proper enforcement
Most divorced Muslim women will agree that they are punished whilst the man escapes scot-free
Last week, Maria said that “Muslim women were still being discriminated against under the shariah legal system”. Her comments have resulted in a legal suit against her, because she had allegedly insulted the shariah court
Some readers may recall the case of a single mother who was caught in a hotel room, in Kuala Terengganu, in September 2018. She was charged with “preparing to prostitute herself”. This case illustrates perfectly, that women are still denied justice
The accused was in the hotel room with a man. They were not caught in flagrante delicto, but in Terengganu the act of “preparing to prostitute oneself” is an offence punishable by six strokes of the rotan
There are several irregularities in the takzir, which is a schedule of punishments for offences. These punishments are meted out at the discretion of the rulers or judges of the state. So, the decisions of the shariah courts, in Terengganu, are man-made
As the single mother was unrepresented, she quickly pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to prostitute herself. Did the court query the fact that she did not have a lawyer to fight her case? Did the court ask why the husband failed to provide the nafkah (maintenance for the children and wife)
Most women give up their education or careers to become a wife and start a family. If they become divorced, they lack the skills to earn a good income. So, they end up in low-paying jobs, and may hold two or three jobs just to survive
Their children will have to be taken to a mother’s helper, which is expensive
This is the problem that many of these women face. They cannot afford the legal fees and have no clue about their rights
Moreover, what happened to zakat? Why had society failed to help this woman
Many Muslim women agree that the ageing shariah system is in dire need of reform and proper and strict enforcement of its decisions. Moreover, the system needs to be standardised nationwide. - FMT

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