MMDA reforms: Female Quazis to be appointed

  • Minimum age of marriage and bride’s consent to be included

By Lahiru Pothmulla

In addition to stipulating the minimum age of marriage, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) is being reformed to include female Quazis, who are judges under the said law, and to seek the consent of the bride to be.

Based on the existing MMDA law, a female can be married off with her father’s consent. However, the proposed change seeks to include the bride’s consent.

Additional Secretary (Legal) to the Ministry of Justice Piyumanthi Peiris told The Sunday Morning that while seeking the consent of the father was previously sufficient, this would now be replaced in the proposed amendment through the inclusion of the consent of the bride to be.

She said that it has also been proposed to amend the MMDA to include female Quazis. Furthermore, Peiris said that a proposal has been made to stipulate the minimum required educational qualifications and a maximum age limit for Quazis.

“Only a lawyer or a degree holder of a recognised university can be a Quazi and he or she should be below 65 years of age,” Peiris further stated.

On 6 January, Minister of Justice Ali Sabry said in Parliament that measures are being taken to prevent underage marriages by reforming the Muslim matrimonial law.

“Muslim underage marriages should be stopped by making 18 years the minimum age required for marriage. Measures are being taken in this regard to prevent underage marriages,” he said.

Minister Sabry told The Sunday Morning that the Ministry will send the amendments to the Legal Draftsman once the Cabinet of Ministers approves them.

“We cannot give a precise time frame. Basically, it is out of our control. Once the Cabinet approves it, we will send it to the Legal Draftsman’s Department and they will prepare the draft,” he said.

The need for reforms to the MMDA has been at the forefront of public discourse due to the agitations from women’s rights groups and various efforts being made over the years to amend such.