Coalition of women’s rights groups: Syariah prosecution of Maria ‘oppressive’

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The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) has condemned the sentencing of Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah to seven days in jail for contempt of a Syariah court.

The sentence, over comments the lawmaker made on a different case, was disproportionate and clearly unreasonable, it said.

The group pointed out that this perpetuated the consistent silencing of women facing injustice in the Syariah court system.

“Prosecuting Maria is not only oppressive and appalling, but it also serves as a form of intimidation, a consistent pattern of silencing women who have faced injustice as a result of legal and religious interpretations of the law,” it said in a statement.

The sentence against Maria was meted out by the Federal Territory Syariah High Court yesterday. The jail term has been given a stay of execution pending appeal.

Miera Zulyana

Maria was cited for contempt by Naza group chairperson SM Faisal SM Nasimuddin over her 2019 public statement regarding the court’s custodial penalty meted out to the businessperson’s former wife Emilia Hanafi.

Emilia, 42, was given the sentence by the Syariah court for rescheduling visitation dates for her children to be with their father.

Many women face similar problems

The ruling prompted criticism from Maria who said that Muslim women were still being discriminated against under the Syariah legal system.

JAG added to this in its statement today, saying that many women have similar experiences to Emilia’s.

“Emilia’s case is not an isolated incident as many survivors face injustices with reference to the protection of their rights in the Syariah legal system,” it said.

Maria has a separate, ongoing legal bid before the civil court to quash the Syariah court’s leave to SM Faisal to seek contempt proceedings against her.

Meanwhile, a Bersatu lawmaker has also joined the chorus in criticising the jail term meted out against Maria.

Dr Afif Bahardin, who is the Penang assemblyperson for Seberang Jaya, said Maria’s role as a people’s representative to discuss issues concerning the rakyat should not be suppressed using such a harsh punishment.

“While I respect the court’s decision, I am of the view that it was too harsh and not fit, especially in today’s world.

“Maria’s role to discuss issues that concern the rakyat, especially those that involve women’s rights, should not be blocked using rules and harsh punishment, because the end result would see what she was fighting for does not get the attention that it deserves.

“Views and opinions should be debated openly and intelligently, instead of being punished or oppressed against the freedom to speak and discuss.

“The court should welcome differences in opinion, and differentiate between criticism and contempt,” he said in a statement.

Afif also called all parties including the country’s Syariah judiciary system to be more serious in carrying out judicial reforms, saying that injustice against women is not a mere perception but a reality.


Earlier report:

Apr 25, Maria gets 7 days’ jail