The Committee to Consider and Propose Reforms to the Muslim Matrimonial Law and Upgrading of Qazi Courts in Sri Lanka is scheduled to finalize their report containing remedies for problems and issues in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, No. 13 of 1956, and hand it over to Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe soon.

The Committee Chaired by former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Saleem Marsoof was appointed in 2009 when Milinda Moragoda was the Minister of Justice to look into reforming the said Act.

Committee Member, President’s Counsel and Constitutional Council Member Shibly Aziz said that reforms were being considered to remedy some of the present problems and a lot of the issues in the said Act.

It is reliably learned that the said reforms would particularly address ones affecting women. The problems and issues include Muslim women not being allowed to marry without the permission of a male guardian, consent of the bride not being sought, statutory rape (involving children) being permissible due to the said law not specifying a minimum age for marriage, child marriage and polygamy being allowed, there being differing conditions concerning divorce for men and women and the same in relation to maintenance and the various types of divorce, and women being barred from being appointed as Quazis, marriage registrars and adjudicators and/or members of the Board of Quazis.

Director of the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum, Anberiya Hanifa informed that they had given recommendations to the said Committee amongst others with regards to seeking consent from the bride and her signature and imposing restrictions on polygamy.

Justice Marsoof added that the committee was scheduled to meet on July 19.
“The age of marriage should be 16 years. The grounds for a divorce initiated by the wife must be extended to include incompatibility. The delegated right of divorce under the stated conditions must be stipulated and provided for within the marriage contract,” she said.

Accordingly, divorce without a reason provided by the husband or unconditional, unilateral talaq must be restricted. She said that the first, second, third or any subsequent marriages must be recorded within the contract of marriage. The right of a woman to seek a divorce from her husband for compensation, which is usually monetary, paid back to the husband by the wife, must be granted without any further delay.

“The wife has an unconditional right to divorce by paying the monetary compensation, return of a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid or promised to be paid by the groom, or by the groom’s father, to the bride at the time of marriage that legally becomes her property. The right to belong to any sect (all four schools of islamic religious law in sunni islam) or not should be a personal decision, and an individual right,” Hanifa explained.