Malaysia's Muslim Men Shirk Financial Duties To Divorced Wives, Activists Say.
Many Malaysian Muslim men who divorce their wives are ignoring their responsibility to provide for their children because the Islamic legal system fails to punish them, a women's rights group said Saturday.
Sisters In Islam said women who were unable to get their ex-husbands to pay child support comprised nearly one-third of the 214 complaints it received in the first three months of 2007, adding that those cases constitute "only a small fraction of what is happening."
"Mothers are forced to beg from their children's fathers so that their children have sufficient food, clothing, shelter and education," the group said in a statement. "There are women who have been waiting two years, five years, even more than eight years, to obtain what they should be rightfully accorded."
Sisters In Islam has previously said Malaysia's Muslim women are suffering a lack of legal protection in a wide range of issues such as polygamy, where men who take multiple wives sometimes neglect the economic and emotional welfare of their families. Islam allows a man up to four wives.
The Islamic Syariah Court is the legal authority in disputes involving families, morality and religion for Muslims, who form nearly 60 percent of the 26 million people in Malaysia, which has Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities.
Muslim men who divorce their wives are usually instructed by the Syariah Court to pay child support, but some "are brave enough to show contempt to the court's order by flouting it," causing immense financial hardship for their ex-wives, Sisters in Islam said Saturday.
"This problem persists because the courts rarely take action against such contempt," the group said. "Sisters In Islam considers this a serious problem because it shows contempt to the religion, not merely the Islamic legal system."
Norhayati Kaprawi, a spokeswoman for Sisters In Islam, said Malaysia's Shariah law has provisions to imprison men who refuse to pay child support, but the penalties "are hardly ever enforced." Courts often postpone a case indefinitely whenever fathers fail to show up for a child support hearing, Norhayati said.
Some men even change their address and work to avoid being hassled by their ex-wives, Norhayati said, noting that the Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department began a survey on the issue of child support in June 2006, but its findings and recommendations have not been finalized.
Sisters In Islam said Malaysia should consider the example of Australia and Britain, which have government agencies dedicated to child support, and Canada, which penalizes errant fathers by suspending their passports, business permits and driving licenses.
***** Much of what the Sisters in Islam have said here is unfortunately true and still happening in our country. Unless there is political will to rectify this unsatisfactory state of affairs, I'm afraid that the woes and travails of Muslim women will continue unabated. I would have thought that Islam Hadhari, the progressive Islam promoted by the present government would have proven to be a panacea for these man-made ills.
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