Sanctioning child marriages is not the only problem with the MMDA.
Minister of Justice Ali Sabry is reported to have insisted the Government will bring an end to child marriages. He made this clear during a courtesy call on the Chief Prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters.
Sabry has apparently informed the Mahanayaka Theras that delegations representing Muslim women have brought his attention to the matter.
A few things need to be flagged. First of all, child marriages is not a phenomenon that is found only in the Muslim community. The problem is that the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) sanctions such unions whereas those which happen in other communities would be unlawful. The preposterous nature of the MMDA has of course made ‘child marriages’ more of a ‘Muslim Issue,’ but this should not blind anyone to the fact that it happens elsewhere too.
Then there is the question of the MMDA itself. Child marriage is not the only problem with this particular piece of ‘customary law.’ Many elements are absolutely and blatantly sexist. They are fundamentally at odds with all provisions in the constitution affirming the principle of equality.
The MMDA has by and large been a ‘holy cow’ as far as those advocating human rights, democracy, equality and such are concerned. Their business, it seems, is taking issue with Sinhalese and Buddhists. Soft hands or hands-off when it comes to other communities, ethnic and religious.
Sabry, though, is above all that. He is the Minister of Justice in a Government that made pledges such as ‘One country, one law.’ He is mandate-bound to do everything possible to make this a reality.
He has objected to child marriages. Good. What of the other elements in the MMDA?
Minister Sabry, the floor is yours. Speak!