Crime & Justice

Bangladesh woman challenges Islamic tradition, seeks to register marriages

Dhaka, Jan 12 (efe-epa).- Ayesha Siddiqa has been visiting the courts of Bangladesh for nearly a decade as she seeks to become Bangladesh’s first marriage registrar, a job reserved only for men.

Women cannot officiate and register marriages because during menstruation a woman cannot enter the mosque, according to a Supreme Court verdict that has just come to light, causing an outrage in the country.

“The job of the registrar is to take the signature of bride, groom and witnesses. It’s not even mandatory for a registrar to remain present when the program is conducted. So I thought despite being a woman I would be able perform the role of a marriage registrar,” Siddiqa told EFE.

The court verdict dates back to February last year although it was not until a few days ago that it was known to the public, sparking a wave of outrage among women’s advocacy groups.

“It has to be borne in mind that due to certain physical condition, a woman cannot enter the mosque during a certain time of the month. She is even excused from performing the mandatory daily prayers during this particular time,” the court had said in its ruling.

“This physical disqualification does not allow her to conduct religious task. We are mindful of the fact that Muslim marriage is a religious ceremony and has to be guided by the terms and dictates of Islam,” it added.

With this ruling, the Supreme Court ratified the Ministry of Justice’s decision to exclude women from the profession of marriage registrar, after Siddiqa, a resident of the northern district of Dinajpur, was rejected for this position in 2012 because of her gender.

“I decided to go to the court because there was no mention in the job circular that it’s only men’s job. I will fight for the case till the end,” stressed Siddiqa, who was then a student of a madrasa or a religious school.

Local women’s advocacy group Naripokkho expressed surprise, shock and outrage over the court’s sentence.

“Period is the main impediment for a woman to become a marriage registrar – this observation of court is ridiculous, irrational and unacceptable,” the nonprofit said in the statement, describing the verdict as the “violation of a woman’s constitutional rights to choose a profession”.

Sharmin Kabir, founder of Wreetu, an organization that provides affordable menstrual health services, told EFE that the verdict was frustrating for them.

“We have been working to normalize the period for several years and create awareness among the masses that it is a natural process. While we are working to break the taboo, this verdict is very disappointing,” she said. EFE-EPA


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