President Rajapakse why is Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister promoting Polygamy against One Country One Law policy

Sans political colours, the policy of One Country One Law was looked forward to being implemented without favour or bias by all citizens of Sri Lanka. This meant that in front of the law civil and criminal laws would be one & applicable to all. It was also accepted that while personal laws deriving from cultures/traditions could exist, these could not overrule the country’s national law applied to all whatever their ethnicity. In such a scenario, it is puzzling why the country’s justice minister should push for the continuance of polygamy camouflaging this quest with ‘amendments’. If there is a One Country One Law Policy there cannot be variance and in front of the law all must face the same law – marriage included.

Given that the Justice Minister is promoting polygamy, he may like to provide statistics as to how many (what percentage) of the less than 10% Muslims in Sri Lanka actually practice polygamy in its true format, to justify polygamy to the President & the Government. Can we have numbers please. 

When questions are raised, the general response is that polygamy is part & parcel of Islam. Not so, polygamy existed far before Islam was founded but this practice was abandoned.

In Islam too, polygamy is NOT MANDATORY. In Islam monogamy is a must but polygamy is allowed in exceptional cases, the primary of which is during wars where casualties and orphans arise. Such a scenario is not applicable for Sri Lanka’s Muslims. There is no war, there are no casualties & there are no orphans from wars.

Thus, polygamy is not a general rule for all Muslims to follow and polygamy is not obligatory of any Muslims and Islam does not encourage or promote polygamy.

Thus, it is questionable why Sri Lanka’s justice minister supposed to be appearing for all ethnic and religions across Sri Lanka should be canvassing for only the religion he belongs to or rather to satisfy a miniature number of Muslim elite practicing polygamy probably not for the reasons Islam allows.

It is unfair by the majority ethnic Sinhalese & the Tamils to legally allow polygamy which means that the state is bound to look after the health & education etc of 4 or more spouses & their children while the state only allows Sinhalese & Tamils to legally have one spouse & those that marry multiple times are accused of bigamy & liable to land up in jail. There are plenty of examples of Sinhalese & Tamils charged with bigamy. Therefore, One Law for all must mean that any national law pertaining to the citizens of Sri Lanka must be applied to all with no exceptions.

The favorite automatic response for this is – what about the foremost place for Buddhism, while this is certainly given in the constitution & there is valid reason to continue this even in any new constitution, in terms of applying the law & Buddhists facing the law (whether laymen or clergy) there is no favouritism because they are Sinhalese or because they are Buddhists. Just count the numbers in prison!

There are many more arguments that addresses the issue of polygamy but these become irrelevant as the citizens of Sri Lanka were assured the policy of One Law One Country, which means that civil and criminal laws in Sri Lanka must be one & applicable to all & any laws existing from tradition/culture can exist but cannot take precedence or overrule the application of the national law.

It is prudent to remind all that One Country One Law did exist under the Sinhale kings & the personal laws for Tamils & Muslims were only permitted after the arrival of colonial invaders.

Thesavalami applicable to ONLY The Malabar inhabitants of the Province of Jaffna” (Malabars were from India) was only codified by the Dutch in 1707. Muslim personal laws did not exist pre-colonial rule.

India’s Supreme Court in February 2015 completely banned polygamy in India ruling that polygamy was not part of Muslim fundamental right. The logic was that the Indian Constitution is bound to protect the Muslim faith but not practices that only a handful practice. Only 5% Muslims of the 150m Muslims in India practiced polygamy. This is why Sri Lanka’s justice minister must produce statistics on how many Muslims practice polygamy to demand its continuance.

One Country One Law essentially means that a parallel justice, judicial system, parallel laws cannot prevail if citizens are to be treated equal and given equal rights. Therefore, demands for equal rights cannot include exclusive rights for a handful.

At a moral level if a man cannot bear to see his wife with another man, same applies to a woman who would not like to share her man with another woman.

At a financial level too – in times of economic hardships how can a man look after 4 wives & their children equally?

At a political level, polygamy will cause major demographic change where Sinhalese & Tamils are asked to practice planned parenting while Muslims are encouraged to bear more children.

There is also the issue of non-Muslims converting to Islam simply to keep 4 women legally!

One Country One Law must be applied – it clearly means there has to be one law for all – no parallel legal systems as per religious practices.

Shenali D Waduge

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