Sunday, July 1, 2012

No Woman Should Be Forced To Stay In Marriage - Justice Marie Saine Firdaus

Justice Firdaus

One should not be forced to stay in a marriage because consent of both parties is a necessity, Justice Marie Saine Firdaus, a member of the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia, said.
The former justice minister explained that marriage, even in Islam, is by consent and one should not be forced. “We are partners in this whole relationship, and all marriages recognised in The Gambia should be protected by the government”.
Mrs. Saine was presenting a document on marriage and family recently during a day’s seminar for Gambia state security officers, traditional and religious leaders on the Women’s Act, 2010.
The Act, which was introduced in 2010, condemns the practice of forced marriage. It provides that every woman is entitled to marry a man she wants, yet parents or guardians, especially fathers, do not ask for the consent of the girl children.

FLAG, an association of female members of the legal profession in The Gambia, held several training to familiarise the public on the Act, as one of their main objectives is to lobby for gender equality in the country through legislative reforms.
However, Marie said, it was important to record the marriage in accordance with the law.“This is because most of the time, when a woman goes to the court, they wonder if the marriage was registered in writing at the first place.”
Joint responsibility for children
According to her, both the man and woman should jointly contribute to the welfare of their children.
“The interest of the children should be given paramount consideration. Your problem has nothing to do with the children,” she added.
On the acquirement of property she went on: “You, as the woman, has the right to acquire a property in your own name.”
She said that women, when they get married, the tradition was that they stay with the bigger family, but both parties shall have mutual agreement to choose their matrimonial home.
“We should try and discuss with our partners what is in the interest of the family,” she further stated.
Separation, divorce
She said the Act spells out that if a woman, for some reason, doesn’t want to stay in marriage, has the right to divorce because the Act makes it clear that a woman can ask for divorce.
Widow’s right way
“Under no circumstance shall a widow be treated or subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment. We have a practice where when a woman loses the husband, his brothers think that they have the right to marry her. It is against the law,”she advanced
She noted that a man cannot forcefully inherent a woman, not even in Islam, as ‘the woman has the right to say ‘no’ I don’t want to marry you.’
She revealed that most women are kicked out of the house once their husband passes away. “There is nothing that should stop you from staying in your matrimonial home, even after your husband dies.”
The right to peace
“We have lots of rebellion and women are the victims who suffer the most. We have never seen a rebellion started by a woman. Why should we suffer at the end?”Marie asked.
She said women are never consulted during negotiation on peace. “It is the right of the woman to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace. Woman should play a role at all level to promote peace. If the woman participates, her needs will be taken care of.”
Protection of women in armed conflict:
She said the government should ensure that international laws are respected in the event of armed conflict. The fact that they are women, they should be protected by the government.
Right to positive context
“Yes, we have cultures and we know some of them are good. We also know some of them are negative on the woman and the girl-child.”
She said harmful cultural practices should not be imposed on women, making reference to female genital mutilation, which is not specifically mentioned in the Women’s Act.
Most of the time people who are affected are the people to explain better.
Right to healthy and sustainable environment
According to her, women have to live in environment that is healthy and peaceful, adding that it was an issue that touches everyone because it affects everybody, especially women.
Marie explained that key stakeholders, as women, should participate in the planning and preservation of the environment and sustainability of the environment.
Special protection of elderly women
“Old women in our society should be taken care of. The government should ensure that older women are protected and provided for. Their right to dignity should be protected and not to be abused,” Marie declared
Special protection of women with disabilities
“The fact that a woman is disabled doesn’t mean they should not participate in any development,” she went on, adding that they should be free from all types of violence.
Special protection of women in distress
‘It is a reality that we have a lot of poor women who are heading families with lot of responsibilities. If you are a woman and do not have the opportunity to have a job, the government have the responsibility to provide for her,” she posited.
Budgetary allocation
All government departments and public institutions should provide budgetary resources to implement and monitor this Act, Marie Saine added.
Author: Binta A Bah

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