Malaysia to allow women judges in Islamic courts


From the BBC. The decision by the Malaysian government to appoint women judges to its Islamic courts has been welcomed by Muslim feminist groups.

The Sisters in Islam (SIS) group based in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, told the BBC it had been pressing for this for many years.

The government said the new judges were part of its sharia reform efforts.

Malaysia runs two parallel legal systems - the civil courts for its non-Muslim citizens and the Islamic system.

"We've been calling for the appointment of women to the sharia courts since the late 1990s," said Ratna Osman, head of the legal unit of SIS, an influential Muslim women's group.

"When you have all male judges, there is some insensitivity - the more so when they are listenining to women's grievances," she said.

The group has long campaigned for reform of the Islamic legal system. It argues that Islam does provide legal protection for women, but that it is not always administered and implemented properly and fairly.

Ms Osman cited the case of one woman who had to wait seven years before her plea for a divorce was heard in a sharia court. In the meantime, her husband had started a new family while refusing to give her a divorce.

"This is just one of many cases," Ms Osman said.

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