Justice Minister asserts cannot target only Muslim laws

Justice Minister Ali Sabry told Parliament today that only Muslim laws cannot be targeted and if the “one law” policy is to be strictly enforced then laws followed by other religions in Sri Lanka will also need to be abolished.

Responding to a question raised by Our People of Power MP Venerable Athuraliya Rathano Thero, Minister Ali Sabry said a number of private religious laws are practiced in Sri Lanka, such as the Kandyan Marriage and Divorce Act, Jaffna Thesavalamai Law, Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, Church of Ceylon Act, among others.

Pointing out that only one religious law cannot be removed, the Justice Minister said it could be amended after discussions, or all private religious laws in Sri Lanka should be abolished together.

Commenting on the Muslim law, Minister Ali Sabry explained Muslim women are not married without their consent, but are done so with their consent, while their fathers are allowed to sign the marriage document on their behalf, only after ascertaining the child’s consent.

He said if this existing practice requires to be amended, then it could be done so following discussions with relevant parties.

The Justice Minister pointed out the minimum age for marriage according to the Kandyan law was 16, while in the Muslim law it was above 12 with the consent of the child.

He said however, amendments have been suggested to the Muslim law in this regard, and steps are being taken to follow a court order that was issued in 2002 in Saudi Arabia amending the minimum age to marriage as 18.

The Justice Minister said a Cabinet proposal was submitted in November 2020 to amend the minimum age for marriage of Muslim women to 18.

Stating that suggestions have also been made to allow the child to sign her own marriage document, Minister Sabry said a committee has been appointed in this regard and is working together with the Muslim community to amend the law.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry further strongly opposed the marriage of children below the age of 18, stating that measures have been taken to address such claims as well.

He further assured that he is confident the Muslim law will be amended as required in the near future. (Colombo Gazette)