Press Statement: Proposed Law on Polygyny
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday 18 December, 2006
MPAC URGES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NOT TO WASTE ITS POLITICAL CAPITAL OVER THE PROPOSED LAW ON POLYGYNY
The Muslim Public Affairs Centre is urging the Federal Ministry of Justice not to waste its political capital on the the bill it has proposed through the Law Reform Commission to the National Assembly to make law banning polygyny and hopes that the two houses of the National Assembly will vote against it.
The government sponsored the Bill to criminalize polygyny as an extreme response to what it perceives as 'a situation where Nigeria would continue to rely on archaic British law for its marriage institution' and it asks the lawmakers to consider a 5 year jail term for offenders- similar to what has been proposed for same-sex marriage! Section 60 of the proposed law reads, ”Any person who contracts a marriage under the provisions of this Act, being at the time married in accordance with customary law or Islamic law to any person other than the person with whom such marriage is contracted shall be guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to imprisonment of five years.” Many Muslims wonder, and rightly so, whether this newly discovered constitutional concern is merely a smoke screen to hide anti-Muslim prejudice, demonstrate an aspect of intolerance and disrespect for other people's religion or simply ill thought-out. If the bill passes, it could lead to significant conflict and controversy between belief and the state law.
The MPAC opposes the government quarter-inch bill on polygyny because it is both arbitrary and discriminatory against Muslims. It is not clear why the government would expend its resources to create controversy and complexity, with serious ramifications for individual Muslims, their families as well as for other members of the society who already are practicing or intends to practice polygyny, around a simple non-issue.
The Bill is arbitrary because the practice of polygyny does not in any fashion hamper the image, social integration and development or progress of our nation. Although, this bill contributes to a climate of hostility against Muslims specifically, many non-Muslims have similar anxieties and anguish over the bill. This Bill also does not take into account the fact that the Nigerian legal system is derived in part from Islamic Shariah law. The holy Qur'an states in Chapter 4 Verse 3; "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."
The Bill is discriminatory because, if passed, it will force Muslims to choose between their faith and a state law. This issue squarely hinges on freedom of religion and as such the state should not artificially impose on the Muslims, or other members of our society, the burden of bringing religious and state law into needless conflict. It is also important to note that polygyny in Islam is a matter of mutual consent and as such men and women will be equally persecuted if this bill is approved.
Today, Nigerians are in charge of their affairs and we must determine issues based only on our interests. Muslims are in majority in Nigeria , serving the nation in many ways and we must not institute laws that will exclude or persecute the majority section of our population, by proscribing something that is approved by our faith. The government needs to spend its political capital on more urgent national and international issues and to burden the lawmakers with this unnecessary Bill is a step backwards and a big waste of our collective political capital.
The MPAC is urging the lawmakers to reject this Bill which is only capable of bringing about a redundant law that can not do our nation any good.
Director of Media & Communications
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:04