Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

In Search of Equality: Marriage Related Laws for Muslim Women in Bangladesh

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

In Search of Equality: Marriage Related Laws for Muslim Women in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

Abstract

The problem of inequality for women in Bangladesh is more social than legal. As regards to the law, except for personal matters, inequalities in the provisions of law are hardly found. Personal matters, however, are regulated by religious laws or customs. In the legal system of Bangladesh though these laws or customs are incorporated separately under the head of Personal Law, these are not, however, as a whole derived from religious laws or customs. Some changes through introducing enactments or promulgating ordinances were made in their application. Still, these have been insufficient to establish equality between women and men. This paper shows how Muslim women are being treated with regard to their Personal Law, in particular marriage and its related law applicable in Bangladesh. Prevailing social constructions of gender are still a fundamental obstacle in realizing the demands of existing law. In order to remove inequalities and impose justice, particularly in marriage-related matters, for both Muslim and non-Muslim women living in Bangladesh, this paper suggests the importance of adopting the Uniform Family Code. At the same time it emphasizes the need for social education and awareness programs through government and non government institutions.

Key Words: Islamic Marriage Contracts, Talaq, Family Law in Bangladesh

Introduction

The legal system of Bangladesh is based on common law, which was applied during the colonial regime of British-India. Still, some special parts of law applied during the British period remained untouched. This special area of law is called personal law, and it is shaped by religious law or customs. This personal law includes: marriage, divorce, dower, maintenance, guardianship, inheritance and so on. In 1947 India was partitioned in two, Hindustan--the present India--where the majority of the population is Hindu, while the other is Pakistan--a Muslim state. India had declared itself a secular country, whereas Pakistan had claimed to be an Islamic country. Interestingly, both the countries had upheld their religious rules in the case of personal law matters. Bangladesh was at that time part of Pakistan, the then East Pakistan, only because the majority of its population had been Muslim when India was divided on the basis of the Two-Nation theory--Hindu and Muslim. In 1971 Bangladesh achieved independence after a nine-month bloody war. A constitution was adopted stating "secularism" as one of the policies in the preamble which was eventually changed by an amendment. All the citizens, however, were put as equal before the law. Nonetheless, no uniform code for family matters were adopted, and personal law were still existed on the basis of religious rules and customs. The majority of the population in is Muslims, but there are also religious minorities including Hindu, Christian and Buddhist. In the case of family matters, everyone is ruled by his or her own religious law.

A careful examination of this religious law shows that women are not equal to men. This truth is not only applicable in Muslim personal law, but also equally true with regard to other religious law, for example, Hindu personal law. My concern here is to look at only a narrow area of marriage related personal law for Muslim women applied in Bangladesh. This would include: marriage, divorce and post-divorce situation of a woman. I will show that Muslim personal law is not the same as in other Muslim countries, nor is it completely similar to the classical Muslim tradition. Therefore, I will present a comparative analysis in which I will examine the present status of Marriage related laws for Muslim women and at the same time I will look into progressive developments achieved thus far.

Marriage

In Islamic Law, marriage is a contract--a social contract--as distinct from a commercial transaction. It is sometimes also termed a 'civil contract' between a single man and a single woman of sound mind who have attained puberty. …

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