Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Advocacy for the Implementation of Women Rights in Islamic Marriages

Islamic marriages are marriages contracted in conformity with Koranic injunctions. Such marriages are potentially polygamous as the Islamic laws allows marriage of a maximum of four wives.


The Requirements are as follows:
! A marriage guardian who speaks for the bride. The order of priority of marriage guardians is as follows: The woman’s son; father; grandfather; brother.
! The payment of dower, traditionally calculated to be ¼ of a Dinar. (Saudi Arabian Currency).
! Marriage witnesses, at least two adult male of sound mind.
! Both parties must be Moslems; or have converted to Islamic faith.
! Maximum number of wives allowed is four.

! The husband has a right of correction and chastisement of the wife.
! Child marriages even at infancy are permitted, although the marriage must not be consummated until the child/bride has reached the age of puberty.
! The husband has a right to demand full obedience to all his orders and instructions provided it does not conflict with the wife’s obedience to Allah.
! The wife cannot go out without the husband’s permission.
! Where the husband has more than one wife he is expected to love, treat them equally and spend equal time with the wives.

Termination of marriage in Islamic law is allowed as a final and inevitable solution for irreconcilable marital feuds. A marriage could be dissolved by either the husband or the wife or by mutual consent of both parties or by the court.

There are four categories of divorce under the Islamic law:
• Approved divorce which is referred to as Talaq-us-sunnat, this is where a husband makes a simple pronouncement of divorce in a period of tuhur i.e. purity, when the woman is free from her menstrual period. During this period, the woman must abstain from sexual intercourse and remain under the maintenance of her husband until the end of the period.
• There is the Undesirable Divorce. Though this is forbidden by sharia, it becomes effective when pronounced e.g., ‘I divorce you’ as many times as the man can.
• Irrevocable divorce is the form of divorce where the marriage is broken without a chance to reconsider the question.
• Revocable divorce is where a divorce has been made and the husband takes back the woman without a new marriage.

Grounds on which an Islamic marriage may be dissolved include:
• Impotency of the husband;
• Premature ejaculation;
• Other sexual defects of the husband;
• Repudiation by the wife married at infancy, on reaching the age of puberty;
• Failure of the husband to maintain the wife;
• Failure of the husband to treat the wives equally;
• Frigidity in the wife and
• Leprosy.

A husband has the power to divorce his wife by saying ‘I divorce you’ called talaq. Two persons, one from the wife’s family and the other from the husbands who are appointed to settle a dispute between them have the power to dissolve the marriage, where an agreement to settle the dispute fails.

A sharia court can also break the marriage. The law permits a wife to ask for judicial divorce where she is being physically or psychologically abused and she cannot bear it, eg, severe beating, nagging, left without food or abandonment.

Note: In the last case it must be proved by means of witnesses before a court or by the husbands confessional statement and where the judge cannot reconcile the husband and the wife, the marriage can be broken.

Note: The failure to have a judicial pronouncement for divorce in cases of the talaq works injustice on women, as it is only the husband who has the right.

During marriage the husband is expected to provide for the wife and children. Where the woman engages in any economic activity to produce wealth she is entitled to ownership of such property in her name. At the dissolution of an Islamic Union, and on completion of the Idda, waiting period, the wife is entitled to take her own belongings along with her including any gift items, moveable or real estate given to her by her husband. The Quaran warns against seizure of any of the wife’s belongings by the husband. Quaran Chapter 4:20. Where there is dispute concerning the ownership of certain items in the household the Quaran dictates that the husband should be given what amongst those things normally belongs to men and the wife gets what normally belong to women!! As for the items commonly used by hymen and women, these would be divided equally between the partners. Women still remain in purdah and some cover their faces.

It is a ground for divorce under sharia for a man to assault his wife even though a man has the right to admonish his wife. The instrument used must be symbolic with a toothbrush or chewing stick and must not leave a mark on her body. Beating will be an example of injury and discord between husband and wife. She will need to prove assault by calling a witness. In a divorce granted under the condition, the woman does not need to return the gifts (or mahr) given to her in the course of the marriage. Shari a law allows the man to withdraw maintenance from the wife if she denies him sex but the law generally forbids marital rape.

It is unfair for marriage to be dissolved by mere pronouncement or refund of dowry without going to court. This practice usually leaves the woman with no benefit and should be discouraged as it is a subjugation of women.

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