KAMPALA – Muslim feminists have accused Government of failing to meet the command of the constitution on the establishment of formal Qadhi courts in Uganda saying that it’s a lack of political will on the part of Government towards the Muslim community and especially women.
The feminists argue that the Qadi courts are provided for under the 1995 Ugandan constitution but almost three decades later no effort has been taken to provide for them legally. They argue that with failure to make a law for their institution, the Government is reengaging on its constitutional right and promoting segregation against those professing the Muslim faith.
The Executive Director at the Islamic Women`s Initiative for Law, Justice and Peace Ashah Mwanga Mastullah says that this situation leaves many Muslim families that have marital disputes and succession matters at the mercy of the current male-dominated informal courts that purport to work as Qadi courts
She made the remarks while making a presentation at a meeting organized by Muslims for Progressive values- A US-based organization promoting reforms, human rights and rule of law under the Muslim faith- in the US Capital Washington. Ms Mwanga noted that if the Qadi courts are well instituted, it would help as far as access to timely justice is concerned.
“When you look at article 129(d) of the Ugandan constitution, it provides for the establishment of Qadhi courts but despite having numerous amendments in this constitution, no effort has been made to operationalise the formal Qadi courts. There seems Government lack of political will to handle this matter which is a disservice to Muslims. Also the Mps who profess the Muslim faith have let us down. The Uganda Muslim Council put in place informal courts that now purport to work as Qadi courts but these are male-dominated and patriarchal in nature. Some of the men violate rights of their family members and they do not look at issues raised by women from a human rights angle. At the end of the day there is no justice” Ms Mwanga asserted
Other concerns expressed by the Muslim feminists include an attempt by some section of Muslims especially men to use religion as a tool to subjugate women. Ms Mwanga explains that some Muslim men erroneously claim that women including those educated should focus on being submissive to their husbands and even consider abandoning their careers
“The wrong promoters of Islam use all excuses to try and gag women. Isn’t it right and important that you also tell us what the Quran says? For instance, it has never been against a Muslim woman going to school or working. In fact Prophet Mohamed May peace be upon him was very clear that if you are seeking knowledge go to Aisha. Aisha was a female Muslim scholar! What if we preach that? Is it not right that Muslim women who have attained education and empowerment be allowed to transform societies?” I am aware that my faith says that my chances of going to haven partly depend on how I submit to my husband. But if my husband acts in a criminal manner even in the eyes of God should I continue to submit to him? Ms Mwanga elaborated
The Imam at parliament also Bugiri Municipality Mp Asuman Basalirwa concurs with the concerns about the delay to operationalise formal Qadhi courts. He says that as Muslim leaders they are continuing to push the executive to fulfill this constitutional obligation
“First of all it’s unfortunate that we do not have Qadi courts up to now even when the constitution is very clear. As the Muslim parliamentary caucus in parliament this is a matter that we have brought before the executive and even when they were preparing their legislative agenda for this new parliament we reminded them. Even when parliament passed the succession act which does not include Muslim families or marriages we did raise that matter again. We have been given assurance by the new minister of justice and constitutional affairs Norbert Mao that this matter is being handled and already proposals have been sent to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council for their input. So we will continue to demand that we have a law on Qadi courts in Uganda” Hon Basalirwa said
Currently, there are 9.1 million Muslims in Uganda according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.