Featured image courtesy Maatram
This is the seventh in a series of videos conducted by sister publication Maatram, highlighting the difficulties faced by women under the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).
Article 16 of the constitution states that existing written and unwritten laws, such as the MMDA, will continue in force even over constitutional law. There is currently a campaign for the reform of personal laws, with some calling for the repeal of Article 16 altogether.
Full English transcript of the interview below.
“I married at 19 years old. I had my child when I was 21. From the time I gave birth to my son, there were problems. My husband would go to work, but never brought money or anything else home. If I asked, then the problems would start again.
When the water or electricity bill came, he would send me to ask my mother to settle it for us. One day instead of asking my mother for the money as usual, I returned because I didn’t want her to think less of my husband. While I was doing this, he pushed me off the bicycle. My son was injured as a result. At that time, I was pregnant again.
One day, he tied my son’s legs and my hands. He lit the house on fire. After that, he took my son and left to Vavuniya, leaving me behind. When I shouted for help, the neighbours came and saved me. I lodged an entry with the police, along with my brother. After negotiations, they encouraged me to return to my husband. After that, the situation got worse. He stole from me and tried to steal my sister’s possessions as well. My sister complained to the police again and this time he spent two weeks in prison.
I didn’t have any money to survive. I went to work at a children’s madrasa (religious school) washing clothes. For one day of work, I received Rs. 300. It is with that Rs. 300 a day that I am raising my two children.
Subsequently, my husband married someone else, and didn’t pay the iddah maintenance fees (for the customary three month waiting period). He doesn’t come to the Quazi court hearings.
Our case is still ongoing in Quazi court. My husband gave us family maintenance for just one year – worth Rs. 65,000. He still owes five years worth of maintenance fees. That amounts to Rs. 540,000.
My children often take what we have for dinner to school the next day as well. In order to make sure they have food to eat, I often skip meals. As a result, I have gastritis and other ailments. If my husband had paid the monthly fees, this wouldn’t have happened. My children only have me to look after them.
When I first went, the Quazi asked me to come next week, as he couldn’t find my file. Then when I returned the next week, he asked me to bring my son, for him to locate our case file. Now he’s asking me to file a new case.
I have to talk about a lot of sensitive issues during the Quazi court hearings, but there are no female Quazis. There should be someone who understands about these issues.”