KAMPALA — Two Muslim women rights organizations have petitioned the UN committee on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) to exert pressure on the Ugandan government to take measures that will protect women in Muslim marriages but also ensure equity and justice especially at the dissolution or marriage or divorce
In their submission at the 81st review session of the committee the two organizations Islamic Women`s Initiative for Justice Law and Peace (IWILAP) and The Global movement for Equality and justice in the Muslim family (MUSAWAH) say that there is urgent need for Uganda to have Quadi courts because the Ugandan constitution provides for them under article 129 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
Article 129 provides that, ‘judicial powers shall be exercised by Courts of Judicature which include Khadi’s Courts for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property and guardianship’.
In may last year, the deputy attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi told Parliament that Government was still consulting different stakeholders but the then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga said that failure by Government to put in place the Quadi courts was a violation of the constitution.
The two organizations say that the courts if well constituted, would be the best avenue through which cases of violations against women and disputes in marriages would be handled in line with the Quran or Islamic teaching which promotes equality
While presenting their statement, the executive director at IWILAP Mastullah Ashah Mwanga said that the Qadhi courts now operate informally with unfairness to women
She advised that the Muslim personal law bill which has been on the shelves for many years be enacted by Parliament
’Although the 1995 Constitution provides for the establishment of Qadhi courts as subordinate courts for Muslim family issues, this has not yet been implemented. Current Qadhi courts operate informally, and are managed by all-male panels, who impose deeply patriarchal approaches to handling marital disputes This situation should be addressed through urgently enactment of the Administration of Muslim Personal Law Bill to allow for the establishment of formalized Qadhi courts that cater for the needs of all genders” Ms. Mwanga submitted
The statement also highlighted other challenges that need to be addressed including forcing young Muslim girls into marriages that remain unregistered
“In Some communities young girls are still forced into marriages against their will due to patriarchal interpretations of Islam. This worsens the challenges within and after marriage. Such girls need to be protected through a legal framework and mechanisms that accord equality. ”
The two organizations also want the Government to engage the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council and Uganda Registration Services Bureau to further support the process of registration and documentation of Muslim marriages.
“Muslim marriages account for only 6 percent of the total number of marriages registered, this is too low compared with the number of marriages solemnized in different mosques across the country. With this come many challenges for instance unfairness for women whose marriages were not registered at the time of divorce as the law only recognizes registered marriages. Many women are denied the right to property and other rights at the time of dissolution of marriage” Ms. Mwanga explained
Among other recommendations it’s the urgent need to a mend the Marriage and Divorce of Mohammedans Act to provide clear procedures for marriage and divorce.