- Rathana Thero, MP Wijemanne present five Private Member’s Bills
- Thero presents Bills to repeal MMDA, make general marriage law applicable to all citizens
- UNP MP presents Bills to make all marriage registrations under general ordinance, raise minimum age of marriage to 18
By Chandani Kirinde
Five Private Member’s Bills, including one to repeal the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, and another to make the General Marriages Act applicable to all citizens, were presented to Parliament by MPs Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero and UNP Kegalle District MP Dr. Thusitha Wijemanne.
MP Rathana Thero presented two Bills, one to amend the Marriages (General) Ordinance No. 19 of 1907, and another to repeal the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, No. 13 of 1951. Meanwhile, MP Wijemanne presented the Marriage Registration (Amendment) Act, which makes it mandatory for all marriages to be registered under the provisions of the Marriage Registration Ordinance No. 19 of 1907. She also presented a second bill to introduce 18 as the minimum age of marriage in Sri Lanka. The Bill states that the “child or underage marriage is an infringement of a young person’s right to education, development, and security, and as such is considered a serious social evil that may render vulnerable the children of Sri Lanka to forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.”
This Act is intended to give all persons under the age of eighteen all possible protection of the law, and to ensure that no person shall consent or decide on their behalf to enter them into a marriage, and to introduce measures for the relevant organs of the State to give full effect to the spirit and letter of this Act, and thereby convey that the State is committed to the elimination of child marriage. Another Bill was also submitted by Wijemanne for the implementation of some of the amended provisions of the other four Acts, by way of an amendment to the Civil Procedure Code. In 2009, a committee was appointed to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, chaired by former Supreme Court judge Saleem Marsoof. This committee has been consulting various stakeholders for a period of nine years, and the final report inclusive of all the recommendations was released in 2018. Despite 14 recommendations being agreed upon by Muslim parliamentary representatives in July 2019, the implementation of the recommendations were brought to a halt. One of the most controversial aspects of the MMDA is that it does not specify the minimum age for marriage of Muslim women. Article 23 of this Act states that a girl under the age of 12 may marry if she has the consent of a Muslim Qazi Court judge.