Family Law, part deux

6 Mar, '06

Crying childPrepare yourself for another 100,000+ person march this weekend (yes, the F1 weekend!) to blackmail the parliament to rescind the Family Law the government sent it yesterday. Our e-steamed clerics are adamant that the proposed Family Law which concerns the Ja’afari sect (Shi’a) NOT be discussed and passed into law by parliament.

What are their main objections?

Do they want to:

Family Law (against) demonstration1. Ensure that women and their children are protected at all times, especially in cases of divorce.
2. Ensure that women and their children are provided for post divorce with an adequate alimony and child support payments.
3. Ensure that women and their children are provided with relevant and decent housing post divorce.
4. Ensure that women will have adequate access to their children should those children be in their father’s custody.
5. Ensure that women are not blackmailed into submission and acceptance of unfair divorce conditions in lieu of them keeping custody of their children.

No. None of the above unfortunately.

The main reason for the clerics’ objections is their realisation of the waning of their sun when such a law becomes a reality. Because then they will be “robbed” of their “God-given” right to (mis)interpret His religion and His laws to their benefit and to the detriment of women and their children.

Family Law (against) demonstrationThey object that the law does not have a codicil dictating that it can only be changed by the respected clerics rather than MPs in parliament. They want that inculcated into the constitution, a constitution to all intents and purposes they disagree with and inherently do not recognise, just as they do not recognise any constitution on Earth other than their own malleable interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunna, neglecting the fact that quite a number of Hadiths are controversial at best and down-right lies at worst. Neglecting the fact that due to their impudence specifically hundreds of women and their children are destitute, neglecting the fact that a woman virtually cannot divorce her husband even if he continuously abuses her and her children both verbally and physically? Neglecting the fact that they have interpreted the Words of God to their and men’s exclusive advantage?

Tell you what? If they accept to make women imams and judges with all the privileges they themselves enjoy, I won’t have a problem by pulling the Family Law out of politician’s hands and keep it in their unisex domain.

Family Law (against) demonstrationUntil then, you can go out and demonstrate all you like, disrupt the Formula One event and wreak havoc as you usually do, I fully support the government in codifying such a law rather than keep it in your malleable and sticky hands.

But the really really sad thing is to see these thousands of women demonstrating against something that would give them back their rights.

Images courtesy of Al-Wasat newspaper in their coverage of the demonstrationsa on 10 Nov 2005

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Comments (26)

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  1. rashman says:

    terrible, absolutely terrible….

  2. AnonExpat says:

    I am aware personaly of Bahraini women saying that they have been told that the “Family Law” would mean they couldn’t have children if they wanted too. When asked from where they heard this some said from other family members and one said she heard it from her religious leader or someone at the Mosque. These women are in the work force in Bahrain employed as secretaries.

  3. Anonymous says:

    *sigh*.
    Is it me, mahmood, or does it seem that everytime Bahrain takes one step forward, i takes another 3 back.

    -nomadicarab

  4. Khalid says:

    I fully agree with nomadicarab, it seems our lovely people don’t want to learn, well atleast a fair chunk of them. What to do, fingers crossed that this one passes through safely cause it sure hell will be a breakthrough.

  5. mahmood says:

    every time Bahrain takes one step forward, i takes another 3 back

    This has been a battle for some 25 years that we know of, so it’s nothing new.

    The objections then, are the same as those bandied about by the clerics today, and that it: Islam and its interpretation is their exclusive domain, and no “mortal” can interpret it in a way in which it could be codified.

    In the absence of that written and unambiguous code, shari’a judges tend to apply their own understanding and in most cases their own prejudices to a case they are presiding over, hence, the prejudice against women and for men in the vast majority of cases.

    And when Islam itself unambiguously says that a woman is worth half as much as a man, then… well, what can I say other than it is high time to focus on the much larger problem of separating religion from the state.

  6. tooners says:

    You know, I just sit and am amazed that this crap happens here. So, they go out into the streets in order to blackmail the govt to do what they want?? Interesting, very interesting.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of women prefer to not know things or want to stay ignorant. When I first moved here, I saw that a lot of women play that dumb card, laugh and think it’s funny. A lot of men like it that way… it gives them enormous power. I see this daily. It’s like the dumber the woman is, the cuter she is. Really, it’s annoying.

    Knowledge is power…. why stay in the dark? But… there are educated women in this country that aren’t broad minded but they think they are. I just can’t understand why a woman would choose not to educate herself, not to read.. and worst of all, to believe this nonsense and to believe everything someone else tells her w/out gaining knowledge on her own and fighting for what she believes in. It’s like they’re soooo desperate to be accepted by the male gender…. so much so that they’ll do anything for that acceptance. It’s sad really.

  7. jasra jedi says:

    i dont think this has anything to do with women’s rights .. its about power and who controls it. the mullas or the state. and both will use their consitituency to fight to maintain their individual positions. even if it means that the women pay the price.

    the real heroes in bahrain are the women who are running social services without much support from either group .. who really beleive in making the country a tad better off ..

    this is going to take a looooong time ..

  8. mahmood says:

    I agree. I was flabberghasted to see an extremely important decision by the cabinet which finally approved granting citizenship to a children whose mother is Bahraini and father a foreigner in two lines at the top of an article about Cabinet meetings a few days ago! It’s like this decision is an “aside” and not really important and women have not faught tooth and nail for for years!

    Cabinet approves bill to grant citizenship to the children of Bahraini mothers married to foreigners.

    I was further dismayed to understand that a woman still cannot get Bahraini citizenship for her husband, but it is perfectly natural (with hurdles of course) the other way around.

    And the list goes on.

    The real disheartening thing about this whole thing is this, however:

    These are thousands of women who have come out AGAINST the proposed Family Law.

    The mind boggles…

  9. tooners says:

    But don’t you think a lot of this support is because their husbands are telling them to do it? Or is it the Imams or what? Is it that they only listen and do what they are told? And, if so, why?! I have a hard time understanding this. W/ respect to citizenship, I’ve been told that it’s almost impossible to get it and that I’d have to wait at least 15 years AND have children even to qualify.. if it’s something that I wanted to do.

  10. mahmood says:

    Can’t answer the first part of your question as I too am lost as to why they do it.

    As to the other, I can say from experience that it is not. My wife got her Bahraini citizenship a few years ago because I bothered to go and follow up on the application.

    The rule is; however, a foreign woman married to a Bahraini qualifies for a passport within 5 years of submitting the application (not from the marriage date!) if she does have children by the Bahraini husband, or in 10 years if without children.

    You still do do the interview to show that you understand Arabic… or wait for one of those Royal Gestures which we get from time to time then all you need happen is have your application already submitted, and you have a reference number for that application.

    That’s what happened when Frances got her passport: they lost the papers twice, I submitted a third time and proved to them that I had submitted the second set (yes, I made THREE COMPLETE sets to start with because I knew that they would lose one, or two files!!) and bound the copies into folders WITH box-file holes already punched so that they can put it in their files easily. The third time was a charm as the prime minister ordered that all applications for eligiable Bahraini citizenship by foreign wives be immediately granted.

  11. tooners says:

    You know, my point earlier, that I was trying to make but failed and I still may, is that some women like to play that dumb card here. It’s everywhere really… I know that. But, I look at your pictures of ALL the women out protesting and I sit and wonder where their minds are and how or why they allow themselves to be involved w/ such. I don’t think anyone will ever know the answer to this, unless these women choose to speak out. I feel sorry for the women caught in this battle – the ones striving for equality in a world where there is none. Some men take advantage here and disgard their wives for any reason… it’s too bad there aren’t more laws against this, and I obviously don’t understand all of what’s happening here. Too bad it’s not like Calif. where the wives get half of everything! But when you live in a society where men can do pretty much whatever they please, it’ll be hard to change this.

  12. Fara says:

    Mr. Mahmood – when will the demos be?
    P/S – I think you have such a fab blog !

  13. mahmood says:

    Just hypothetical Fara, and thanks for your kindness.

  14. Citizen Quasar says:

    You can’t free slaves if they don’t want to be free.

  15. Anonymous says:

    الاخ العزيز محمود
    تحية و احترام

    شكرا على نصرة حقوق المراة و خصوصا الام و اطفالها فنحنوا فى امس الحاجة بمملكة البحرين الى قانون للاحوال الاسرية و خصوصا غدا العالم يحتفل بيوم المراة العالمى فى 8 مارس من كل عام فتحية و وردة منا الى المراة الصامدة انما كانت

    و شكرا

    مريم محمد ابراهيم
    ام مطلقة لآربع اطفال
    مملكة البحرين

  16. Bahraini4eva says:

    “I don’t think anyone will ever know the answer to this, unless these women choose to speak out.”

    Some of these women have spoken out and insisted that they do not believe in the Family Law, or in other words, giving themselves more rights! These view points were published in the local newspapers following the protests, and they seemed very firm about their beliefs.

    My Solution: They don’t want rights, Well then.. They won’t get rights!

  17. mahmood says:

    و الله يا آختي مريم العزيزه هذا آقل من آضعف الإيمان

    بما آني آب و آخ و أبن و زوج لأنسات و سيدات كريمات كيف لي آن آقبل بالحال المقرف الذي تعيشونه آنتم كذا، بلا قانون حديث مكتوب و متفق عليه؟ خصوصاً بعد متابعة الآحداث الآخيرة من أعتصامات مؤزرة بالنساء نفسهم الذين من المفروض آنهن يقفون مع إخواتهن و الحق البين؟

    عزيزتي، على الكل قرائة هذا التقدير الشامل المعني بآلإتهاضات الصارخة للمرآة في عالمنا العربي و كذالك كتاب الآخت الناشطة غادة جمشير ليعلم الناس مدى الإتهاض الذي تعيش تحته المرآة العربية و المسلمة

    و الله يكون في عونكم جميعاً

  18. mahmood says:

    My Solution: They don’t want rights, Well then.. They won’t get rights!

    True, but they shouldn’t stop those who do want those rights from receiving them!

    I think the way out of this quagmire is institute two courts: one based on Shari’a (both sects, each their own if need be) and one civil court. If people choose to marry under the civil court, then Family Law automatically applies. Those women who choose to marry under the Shari’a laws will soon realise how much better off their sisters are under the civil courts and it won’t take too much time for them to demand the dissolution of Shari’a courts!

    As a father, I would insist that my daughters and son marry under the civil laws, if they choose to marry and live in Bahrain that is.

    note: the civil court I have in mind would be manned by clerics who believe in the codification of Family law, so people will still be married under the auspices of Islam. Thought I’d clarify that point before I get accused of something…

  19. Chanad says:

    I completely agree with your suggestion in your last comment to give people a choice of either Sharia or civil courts. This is an idea that has been discussed a great deal (but not implemented yet) in India, which has been dealing with exactly the same Personal Law problems for decades.

    Ideally I am in favour of a single law but its hard to argue in its favour when only 100+ people can be bothered to show public support for it, compared to tens of thousands who are willing to protest against it.

    (Of course, I’m sure the clerics would even oppose the idea of having a choice between civil and Sharia courts.)

  20. A court with out specific codified laws is unheard of in any in any civilized system. A judge in such court is a cosiderable power and autherity. Those who tasted power or autherity will fight till the last breath to keep it!
    I disagree with their position but I admire their ability to mobilise the crowds.

  21. Graceful Beauty says:

    As a Bahraini woman, I personally feel that these laws should be implemented ASAP. From a just point of view, divorced women or those with marital problems have been shuned by civil society for years and have suffered enough under the hands of religous clergy that aim to rule anybody and everybody, in any way possible. I agree, its very hard for them to let go of whatever power they have, especially over mainly the “uneducated villagers” that are willing to blindly follow those who claim to “know it all”.
    What I am amazed to see is that none of these women have considered comparing current rulings in such issues with whatever is in the proposed law.
    More to come….

  22. Johnster says:

    I’m wondering whether all these people potentially protesting are not specifically against the family law but this is just a chance for women to express dissatisfaction.

    Fear of change and codependence are other big issues

  23. Mahmood,
    I really need to know something, did you actually researched to why the clerics and the tens of thousands of men AND women protesting. A 100,000+ person march in Bahrain is not a small thing to ignore, it is a huge thing to a 1/5 millon population country inclusive of expats and all the asian workers. You want to tell me that those clerics managed to brain wash all of them!
    You cannot judge an issue by just looking at oneside.
    I don’t have the time now for more.. maybe later…

  24. mahmood says:

    Ok Salman, I appreciate what you’re saying, and I agree that with the numbers of people who went out in the street protesting against the law is large and their concern is legitimate; however, let us consider logic here:

    Are women at a disadvantage in Shari’a courts especially in divorce, inheritance and custody cases?

    If you agree that they are, then that is prejudice and them being treated as subservient and substandard to men. And that is not correct and not right.

    The Family Law – which is after all a codified set of laws emanating from Islam and written by clerics themselves – is a good thing.

    The protests were not against Family Law per se, but rather against its codification, which is something I do not understand nor accept.

  25. on the other side says:

    I was on the other side of the street demonstrating for the law. because it affects me and my kids also living in bahrain and I would like to see my daughter protected in the future
    99.9% of the gals did not know why they where there and why they were demonstrating they just showed up as being told by husbands and religious leaders to make the huge numbers.

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