I am less than impressed by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil's new position on the Islamic Family Law (IFL) issue. When the IFL bill was passed in December, the minister was vocal in condemning the way the bill was pushed through; and said that her ministry had identified even more flaws in the IFL than women's NGOs.
Recently, however, she seems to have decided that the IFL is actually okay and that any problems are due either to misinterpretation of the law, or to how the IFL had been implemented by syariah judges. I am not sure which part of this equation Shahrizat feels is reassuring to those of us who have been so distressed by various discriminatory provisions in the IFL.
Strangely enough, I find neither the fact that a bill that was so unclear that the minister herself (a lawyer by training) needed several months to realise that the numerous flaws her ministry identified were all non-existent, is now law; nor the fact that those who implement our laws are apt to do so in ways which lead to miscarriages of justice, particularly heartening.
If the minister's intention was to reassure the public about the problems with the IFL, I suggest she addresses concrete issues such as how the IFL's changing of a provision that a man who wishes to commit polygamy must show that it is 'necessary' and 'just', to one that only requires him to show it is 'necessary' can be reinterpreted by women as fair and non-discriminatory to women.