New Malaysia should protect women’s rights & its defenders

August 30, 2019 siva

KUALA LUMPUR: Regional feminist NGO, the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), is extremely disturbed and concerned by the decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court to dismiss a five-year-old Islamic fatwa against Malaysian NGO and partner, Sisters in Islam (SIS), calling it deviant.

“That an organisation which champions the rights of women and girls is declared deviant is shocking and very disturbing,” said Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director of ARROW, which is based in Malaysia and advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people. “SIS is a civil society working towards advancing the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia within the framework of Islam, universal human rights principles, constitutional guarantees as well as lived realities and experiences of women. Why would they be considered deviant when the issues they champion are issues of justice and compassion?”

SIS has been advocating to end child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), promoting gender equality in Muslim marriages and Islamic Family Laws, and taking a stance against gender based violence and moral policing.

The upholding of the fatwa suggests that helping women to get justice in court, informing women of their rights, proposing reforms pertaining to Islamic Family Law, protecting children and engaging in intellectual discourse on Islam and women’s rights – all constitutes to being deviant.

Ms Thanenthiran added: “SIS gives an alternative and compassionate view of what is possible and, in doing so introduce ideas from various scholars and how these scholars interpret religious texts. What SIS champions are policies already underway in other Islamic countries like Morocco and Tunisia and institutions like Al-Azhar. By saying that the civil court has no jurisdiction relating to Syariah law, it is setting the stage for increasing crackdown on women’s rights organisations by fundamentalist and conservative groups.”

She concluded: “We urge New Malaysia to stand on the right side of history and reconsider this judgement. This would set a precedent and send a strong signal that the courts will protect women’s rights defenders, and are serious about protecting women and girls’ rights and their dignity. And to reiterate what SIS has already said – after 62 years of independence, Malaysian women deserve better than this.”

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