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Islamic Family Law and Justice for Muslim Women

Muslim women in Kabul. (twocentsworth/Flickr)

Muslim women in Kabul. (twocentsworth/Flickr)

Financial Provision

Halijah Mohammad, Singapore
The law provides for the payment of mutaah (compensation) and eddah (maintenance for waiting period of three months) by the husband to the wife upon the divorce. If the husband could prove that the wife was nusyuz (disobedient), the husband has to pay only the mutaah. Quantum of mutaah is based on the number of days of the marriage. It started off with one dollar per day, some years ago, was subsequently increased to one dollar fifty cents and recently increased to three dollars per day. There are two points of view on the assessment of quantum. For long-term marriages, the rate of three dollars per day can result in an enormous for husbands with moderate means, but on the other hand, for rich husbands, three dollars per day is a very pathetic little sum. The issue in Singapore is still controversial - whether to fix the sum to three dollars per day or get another formula. There are also those who argue that domestic maids in Singapore are being paid more than three dollars per day, so why should the wife be paid less? (It might be suggested that it would be fairer to adopt a formula where the rate per day should also take the husband’s means into consideration - different rates for men of different income levels.)

The law also provides of the division of matrimonial assets upon divorce. In Singapore, the division appears to be fairly generous to the wife as her non-financial contributions are also taken into account, as well as the welfare of the children in her custody.

Ratna Batara Munti, Indonesia
In Indonesia, the wife has no right for maintenance if the husband could prove that she was nusyuz. Nusyuz of the wife has always been connected with their role as sex provider. Only those wives who serve their husbands sexually will receive mutaah. Similarly, in the case of mahar (dowry), the payment would be made if the woman has served the husband sexually in their marital relationship; otherwise the husband would not consider it his duty to pay the mahar. The enforcement of financial payments is also a problem, except in the case of civil servants employed by the government, where one-third of the husband’s salary may be deducted for maintenance.

The law provides for the division of matrimonial assets; however, the wife often has problems in providing the evidence regarding the properties, due to the confidentiality of bank accounts and the fact that the properties are often registered in the sole name of the husband.

Isabelita Solamo Antonio, the Philippines
The general property regime for Muslims is that of separation of properties. In a way, this is favourable to women in that any properties that was brought into the marriage by the wife, remains the wife’s properties. It is also clearly defined that her income during the marriage is also hers. However, on the other hand it is unfavourable to women when there is a question of common properties, and the women lack the evidence to claim a share of the common properties. The other problem is that even though the wife has the legal right for maintenance by the husband during the marriage, in reality, the women often contribute a great deal towards the household expenses. In the case where the wife is pregnant at the time of the divorce, she should be supported by the husband for a period of up to two years after the divorce.

Nik Noriani Nik Badlishah, Malaysia
In Malaysia, if the wife is found nusyuz by the court, she is denied the three months of nafkah eddah. According to her, in a case reported in 1983 from the state of Perlis, Piah v. Che Lah, where the Court found that the wife was nusyuz, it dismissed her claim for eddah maintenance but allowed her claim for mutaah. In many cases, there is a large disparity between the amount of mutaah claimed by the wife and the amount offered by the husband -- where the wife would claim a very high sum for mutaah while the husband would offer a very small sum. The tendency of the Courts is to award a rather low sum for mutaah.

The law provides for the division of matrimonial assets and the wife’s non-financial contribution is supposed to be taken into account, although greater consideration is to be given to each party’s financial contributions. The problem is that nowadays the wife often gives double contribution as she does the housework as well as contribute towards the financial expenses. However, the prevailing idea is that the husband’s contribution is greater. Women also face difficulties in tracing the properties that were registered in the husband’s sole name.