Malaysia used to have one of the most progressive Muslim family laws in the world but by 2003, we are right there at the bottom, thanks to amendments to the law which discriminated women.
IN the latest UN report on Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016, Malaysia is ignominiously lumped with Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as countries that have maintained highly discriminatory family laws.
It is not that all these worst countries have laws based on Islam, for there are many Muslim countries with far better family laws. The significant finding is that women’s groups face the biggest resistance to reform when state and religion are closely intertwined. In such countries, religious doctrine is less likely to evolve and adapt to changing social practices as patriarchal interpretations of religion get frozen.
In contrast, the report highlighted the achievement of Morocco where the women’s movement mobilisation for family law reform, the election of a socialist party into power and the ascendance of a young progressive King successfully led to an overhaul of its Muslim family law.
The law reform in 2004, based on Islamic and human rights principles and women’s lived realities, recognise marriage as a partnership of equals. Read more