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Muslims can’t marry under General Law

Activists pressing for reforms in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) raised concerns regarding the statement by Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN Ravinatha Aryasinha at the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Minority Issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye regarding the MMDA.

Aryasinha had stated that regardless of the origin, race or religion, any Sri Lankan can enter into a marriage bond under the General Marriages Ordinance and hence the application of personal laws is not automatic, but a matter of choice of the individual.

Commenting on the statement, Independent researcher on MMDA and author of Unequal Citizens, Hyshyma Hamin said, the General Marriage Ordinance in its introduction has the specifying clause "other than the marriages of Muslims", hence it is clear that Muslims cannot marry under general law.

"It is not even a matter of interpretation. The application of personal law is explicitly automatic and there is no choice for the individual," she noted.

In the recent past, there were many concerns regarding the MMDA and activists' groups were lobbying for reforms claiming that the MMDA hinders the rights of Muslim women.

Aryasinha, meanwhile had told the UNHRC that the Government has sought the assistance of eminent persons in the Muslim Community who are well versed in Muslim law and the system of Quazi Courts to consider reforms in Muslim law. This Committee is headed by a sitting Supreme Court Judge. These discussions are being conducted with a positive approach.
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