He said that this was decided upon following a meeting of a bi-partisan group of Muslim Ministers and Members of Parliament. “An agreement was reached at this meeting of Muslim MPs held on Friday to accelerate reforms on the MMDA, to which the Ministry Secretary is tasked with formulating a proposal,” he told the Daily News. “This will form the basis of a White Paper that will be presented to Parliament.”
He said the proposal cites several amendments to the Act, including raising the minimum age of marriage for both bride and groom to 18, allowing the bride to sign the Register of Marriage as her consent, upgrading the required qualification of a Kadi to Attorney-at-Law and permitting female Kadi (women who will adjudicate family law of Muslims).
“Minister Thalatha Athukorale has left it for the Muslim MPs to take the lead on the matter and we hope there will not be any opposition to it,” he said adding that the All Ceylon Jammithul Ulema (ACJU) has sought a discussion with the group over the proposed amendments.
Lobbyists of the Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group (MPLRG) says the ‘unprecedented momentum in political will’ is worrying. “We are cautiously encouraged by this agreement on the basic reforms, but deeply disappointed that this selective approach overlooks crucial concerns in the MMDA,” Ermiza Tegal, Attorney-at-Law and a member of the reform group said. “To cherry pick from the most public of demands for reform also indicates a lack of genuine commitment.”
She added that many other crucial reforms of the MMDA has been flatly ignored including unconditional polygamy, lack of uniform application of MMDA across all sects, unilateral divorce by husbands and unequal divorce procedures for women and men, requirement of women to obtain permission from male guardian to marry.
“This privileged access to political representation to the exclusion of women and the concerns women have been raising is a long standing ongoing concern,” a statement from MRLRG read. “Political representatives and community leaders should not forget that ACJU has been one of the main blocks to MMDA reform. Their approach has been highly patriarchal and uses a very limited and rigid purposed interpretation of Islamic law.”