Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 19, 2016

Islamic Shari’ah and the Rights of Women: The Maldives’ Thirst for International Human Rights Norms of Equality and Non-Discrimination

Shamsul Falaah

Abstract

The topic of the rights of women is a contentious and diverse one; it continues to fuel debates in both Muslim-majority and other countries. In principle, all agree that women are entitled to rights. However, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, there is a fierce debate about how and to what extent women are entitled to certain rights. On the one hand, some scholars advocate for the rights of women without deference to gender inequality or discrimination in comparison with men, while on the other hand, other scholars try to defend the inequalities and discriminations that arise from religious or cultural norms. In this regard, the literature relating to the status of women’s rights in the Muslim-majority countries gives rise to vigorous criticism. Much of this criticism relates only to the domestic laws of specific countries and their interaction with the broader international human rights norms. Although there is some discussion about the status of women’s rights in the Maldives, this discussion occurs only in Non-Governmental Organizations (both local and international) and in international forums; apart from an occasional passing mention of the Maldives in other areas of debate, thus far, there has been no academic discourse devoted to the rights of women in the Maldives and their relationship to the international human rights norms of equality and non-discrimination. This article contributes to filling this gap by studying the status of the two norms of international human rights – equality and non-discrimination, in the Maldivian context. The study hypothesises that there are potential tensions within these two norms arising out of the incorporation of Islam in the Maldivian Constitution and that these tensions can be harmonized through the techniques and tools of Islamic Shari’ah. The research finds that a maqasid-oriented ijtihad (al-ijtihad al-maqasid) could be the most suitable method for easing the tensions arising out of qat’iatil dilala (the explicit rulings in the Quran and Sunnah); in the case of tensions falling under zanni (speculative) sources, the tools of takhayyur and talfiq could bring harmony to the tensions arising. It is suggested here that these methods be used for the reforming and interpretation of laws and by way of fulfilling the international obligations of the Maldives. This article concludes by discussing the challenges and recommendations for overcoming the challenges in order to achieve the main objective of resolving the potential tensions between the Maldivian law and the international human rights norms of equality and non-discrimination.

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Published Online: 2016-10-19
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

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