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Securing rights of Muslim women within families

Jul 26, 2011

A global movement, Musawah’s report CEDAW And Muslim Family Laws tries to explore the Sharia laws for equal status of women within Muslim families. The report states that CEDAW’s notions of non-discrimination are compatible with religious laws and should be incorporated in policies worldwide.

"CEDAW And Muslim Family Laws: In Search Of Common Ground" is a report based on the findings of a Musawah research project on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW’ or ‘the Convention’). The convention monitors effective implementation of family laws and practices that which discriminate against Muslim women.



The research project on which the CEDAW report was based reviewed documents for 44 countries with Muslim majority or significant Muslim minority populations that reported to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW Committee’ or ‘the Committee’) from 2005 to 2010.

Musawah is a global movement of women and men who believe that equality and justice in the Muslim family are necessary and possible. It uses a holistic framework that integrates Islamic teachings, universal human rights, country specific constitutional guarantees of equality, and lived realities of women and men.

Justice for Muslim women

Musawah submits that full implementation of CEDAW is possible, as the principles of equality, fairness, and justice within CEDAW and Islam are fully compatible, and reform of laws and practices for the benefit of society and the public interest (maslahah) has always been part of the Muslim legal tradition.

A number of countries examined, stated the need for greater action with regard to achieving equality for women within the family. Many noted that it s important that ‘customary laws and practices that are discriminatory against and harmful to women are thoroughly reviewed’.

Very few State parties admitted that several interpretations of the Qur’an and/or Islamic practices exist. Also in the states that do admit, some avoid to act upon the issue calling it a cultural norm.

Certain countries where Muslims are a minority, the state prefers not to hold strong opinions to avoid offending cultural and religious sentiments of its minority.

The CEDAW framework is based on three basic principles. The first is that the universal and Islamic values of equality, non-discrimination, justice and dignity are the basis of all human relationships. The second states that full and equal citizenship, including participation in all aspects of society, is the right of every individual. Thirdly it follows that equality between men and women requires equality in the family.


Based on these founding principles of the CEDAW, the musawah report has made some recommendations.

The report emphasises that family laws that perpetuate inequality in the family cannot be justified on religious ground and it hence recommends the states to recognise that resistance to reform of muslim family laws often stems from religious grounds, such as patriarchy disguised as religion or political pressure within the country.

The report encourages state parties to incorporate and reflect international human rights norms and standards, namely CEDAW’s notion of equality and non-discrimination in their laws and policies. 

The report states that it is vital to encourage open debates with states parties, within Muslim societies, and within the international human rights system regarding diversity of opinion and interpretations of religious laws and principles relating to family laws and practices.

The report also urges states to recognise and support the women and men who are engaging in the processes of reform of family laws and protection of existing rights. This will help support the movement and make it more effective.

Source : AWID
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