It was truly disappointing that the Kuala Lumpur Syariah court has decided to sentence Emilia Hanifi to seven days in jail for contempt of court for rescheduling a visitation for her kids with her ex-husband, Naza World Group executive chairman Datuk Wira SM Faisal SM Nasimuddin. This ruling is a grave injustice and a total disgrace to the judicial system.

Emilia had previously asked permission for rescheduling of the visitation dates on the 6th and 7th October 2018 in order to take her three sons to a religious Charity event. SM Faisal was also absent on the replacement dates on the 13th and 14th of October and did not provide any reason for his absence.

Emilia, who divorced in 2016, is a victim of domestic abuse and had struggled with the trauma of being in an abusive relationship that was also widely covered by the media at that time.

For the first two years after her divorce, she struggled to support her three children as she did not receive child support from her ex-husband and had to go through a lot to put a roof over their heads.

The Welfare Department has recently knocked on the doors of Emilia’s family members in search of her three kids. This is absolutely astounding. It has been four years since the case was first brought to court and Emilia has since been granted full custody over her children. Why is she still being harassed?

Sentencing a mother of three to jail for seven days for rescheduling visitations even though she had asked for a replacement date is a serious matter. It highlights the discrimination in our Syariah legal system against Muslim women that still exists today.

For over 30 years as an activist and a human rights advocate I have encountered many cases where divorced Muslim women have been left defenceless against the syariah courts especially when it comes to getting ex-husbands to provide maintainance.

Why does the Syariah Court and the Welfare Department not go after fathers who do not pay child support or maintenance?

This form of discrimination and injustice must stop. I recommend the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Ministry of Religious Affairs to take up this matter immediately and to work with the Syariah courts to set up a non-discriminatory system to take care of the rights of the disadvantaged.

We cannot allow this discrimination to continue any longer.