Earlier this year, a Malaysian court evoked Sharia law to allow a man to divorce his wife by text message. Similarly in Indonesia, a government official divorced his 17 year old wife just 4 days after their wedding. The official said he decided to end the marriage because his wife was not a virgin as she claimed. The reason for divorce was condemned by women and children’s right advocates. The advocates call for the official’s immediate voluntary resignation and have requested the police to file charges of defamation and “unpleasant conduct” against him.
Text messaged divorces have been a long-standing issue of debate among feminists and women’s rights advocates in Islamic countries. Advocates say court rulings allowing divorce by text messages send a clear message to men that they can treat women disrespectfully and get away with it.
Defenders of Islamic law told Post global with David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria on Washington Post that under the Sharia law, a man can divorce a woman simply by announcing his intentions in any form of writing. This is followed by a three month “cooling off” period before the divorce can be finalized, to create an opportunity for resolution. However, if a woman wants a divorce, she must go before a court to seek a divorce, and she must prove her husband has an inadequacy, usually impotency or extended absence. If not, she has no right to divorce him.
In defense to the text message approach, Dr Abdul Hamid Othman,Malaysia government’s adviser on religious affairs said SMS is another form of writing.
Many Islamic countries including Malaysia and Indonesia have had amendments to their family laws, such as requiring divorces be brought before a court. However, Sharia courts and their rulings have steadily influence state legal systems.
In Thailand, the government provides for special courts conforming to Islamic law which grant Thailand divorce to Muslim communities in the provinces of Satun, Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.