July 13, 2010

Malaysian Islamic courts appoint first women judges

KUALA LUMPUR, Rajab 28/July 10 (IINA)-The appointment of the first two women judges to Malaysia's Islamic courts was hailed recently as a move to address the gender imbalance in the country's religious judiciary.

Premier Najib Razak announced the appointments, made by the king in May, as an example of the government's commitment to transforming the Sharia judiciary.

"The appointments were made to enhance justice in cases involving families and women's rights and to meet current needs," Najib was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama last week.

Islamic courts run in parallel with civil courts in this Malay Muslim-majority country but women say they face much discrimination in Islamic divorce proceedings, inheritance and child custody cases.

Suraya Ramli, 31, was appointed a sharia judge in the administrative capital of Putrajaya while Rafidah Abdul Razak, 39, was made a Kuala Lumpur Sharia court judge.

Muslim pressure group Sisters in Islam welcomed the appointments as a "positive sign for Muslims" and a move that the group had been advocating for over a decade.

Women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the move would eventually see "an equal representation of men and women in decision-making positions".

"Now we must maintain the momentum of such progress and I would like to see all states emulate this move by appointing women into various state Sharia courts," she added.

The two women judges declined comment while Sharia court officials could not be reached.
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