Two women appointed to male-dominant Malaysian Sharia court bench

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Kuala Lumpur, July 30 (ANI): Two Malaysian women have been cleared to hear the same cases as their male colleagues in Sharia court.

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), they will join the bench on August 2 and will serve on lower courts in the capital, Kuala Lumpur and the city of Putrajaya.

The Malaysian Government has appointed two female judges to the sharia courts, which operate in parallel with secular courts in this multifaith country after years of debate.

It is hoped that women judges will bring a female perspective to the country's judicial system, which has often faced criticism for its bias against women.

However, in the Muslim world, there are sharp divisions over the role of women in the judiciary.

Countries like Lebanon, Morocco, and Pakistan have appointed women to judge cases in secular and sharia courts. Neighboring Indonesia has scores of female judges. In contrast, Iran and Saudi Arabia insist that only men can sit in judgment in their courts.

Malaysia is known for its tolerant brand of Islam. But, it also has a conservative streak and has drawn attention for caning women for adultery and banning Christians from using the word Allah. Religious minorities often complain discrimination.

Government officials say the addition of female judges is part of a gradual overhaul of Sharia courts, which mostly administer family law for the Muslim majority.

The country's Religious Affairs Minister Jamil Khir says he expects the state authorities to appoint female judges "very soon".

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Minister for Women, Children, and Community Development, and a former civil court magistrate, said: "Now we have opened the floodgates. I expect to see a tsunami of qualified women in our courts."

At Kuala Lumpur's sharia court, reactions among petitioners are mixed. Female plaintiffs believe that female judges will be more responsive to women in divorce and custody hearings. The male plaintiffs argue that women can't make cool decisions in heated cases. (ANI)

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