Malaysia’s Islamic courts appointed their first two women judges today. Suraya Ramli has been appointed as a Sharia judge in the administrative capital city of Putrajaya and Rafidah Abdul Razak has been appointed in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Ramli and Razak were officials in the nation’s Islamic Judicial Department prior to their appointments today.
These appointments are part of the Malaysian king’s goal to address the gender imbalance in the country’s Islamic Sharia judiciary, according to Agence France-Presse. In Malaysia, religious Islamic courts run parallel to the nation’s civil courts. Many judges in the nation’s civil courts are women.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who announced the appointments in May, stated, “The appointments were made to enhance justice in cases involving families and women’s rights and to meet current needs.” Women in Malaysia have reportedly faced discrimination in the country’s Islamic courts in cases involving divorce, polygamy, inheritance, and child abuse, according to the Associated Press.
According to the 2008 Global Gender Gap Index, Malaysia ranks 96th among nations in terms of gender equity. The Muslim group Sister in Islam has lobbied for women to be appointed to the Islamic Courts for more than a decade. Malaysia’s women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil announced this move will be followed by more efforts towards “an equal representation of men and women in decision-making positions”. She continued, “Now we must maintain the momentum of such progress.”