The “Comparative Legal Review of the Impact of Muslim Family Laws on Women Across Commonwealth Asia and Africa” report, commissioned by Sisters For Change and authored by Musawah, provides a comprehensive legal review of Muslim family laws across Commonwealth Asia and Africa, analysing the nature and extent to which they discriminate against Muslim women and girls. The right of women to equality, including within the family, is recognised in international law. Yet the constitutions of a large number of Commonwealth countries provide that personal status laws (relating to marriage, divorce, distribution of marital property, inheritance, adoption and related matters) are exempt from constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination, or reserve matters of personal status to the ethnic and religious communities within the country.
This report provides a detailed analysis of 12 principal areas of concern relating to marriage and family matters in 10 Commonwealth countries where Muslim women and girls suffer discrimination under current Muslim family laws. The 10 countries selected for review from Commonwealth Asia are Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka, and from Commonwealth Africa are Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The report discusses the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in urging legal reform of discriminatory religious and personal laws; highlights the critical legal advocacy work of domestic women’s rights organisations across the 10 countries; and analyses steps taken by governments to reform and/or overcome resistance to legislative change. The report concludes by making a series of recommendations for reform of Muslim family laws that discriminate against Muslim women and girls for each of the 10 Commonwealth countries reviewed. The purpose of this report is to advance and support the reform of family and personal laws that discriminate against Muslim women and girls.