KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 – The government plans to enact legislation to enable Shariah courts to order banks to freeze the accounts of Muslim men and to make payments for wife or child maintenance.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the Shariah Judiciary Malaysia Department (JKSM) will introduce a Financial Financing Act to allow banks to freeze husbands’ accounts based on court orders.
“Banks will also be allowed to make payments from the husband’s accounts that have been frozen to his wife, if his wife makes financial claims in court. This is known as Hiwalah,” Ismail Sabri said in a speech yesterday at the 2022 National Women’s Day celebration here.
Hiwalah is an Islamic financial term that is literally translated as shifting from one place to another.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) said in its 2019 report on Telenisa — a hotline run by the Muslim women’s group that provides free legal advice on issues related to Shariah Islamic family law like divorce, polygamy, alimony of wife and children, and matrimonial property — that most of its working female clients that their husbands never pay them maintenance.
Women callers to SIS complained of facing difficulties in receiving maintenance payments during the marriage and after divorce.
SIS also received child maintenance complaints. The percentage of arrears in payment of child maintenance increased four-fold from 5 per cent in 2016 to 20 per cent in 2018.
More than half of complaints related to child maintenance in 2019 were inadequate maintenance, while 9 per cent involved fathers disobeying court orders.
Ismail Sabri also announced yesterday that the government would strengthen the Hakam institution under the Shariah courts to expedite the divorce process among Muslim couples.
“This was introduced by JKSM to resolve lengthy divorce hearings that affect couples who wish to divorce.”
The prime minister said the Securities Commission will mandate the appointment of at least one woman director in the boards of all public listed companies.
This requirement will come into effect on September 1 this year for large-capital companies and June 1 next year for other public listed companies.
Ismail Sabri further instructed heads of departments and the top management of all organisations to allow female employees, whose husbands died, to work from home for an appropriate time to manage family affairs.
He said a National Women’s Council would be set up, besides citing the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill that is pending second reading in the Dewan Rakyat.
The government has allocated more than RM11 million in subsidies for mammograms and cervical cancer screenings for high-risk women.
According to the prime minister, personal hygiene kits are given free to 130,000 female teenagers from the bottom 40 per cent (B40) every month throughout this year, amid period poverty.
The government has also taken the initiative to increase social support centres for victims of domestic violence and to empower the police’s sexual, women and child investigation division (D11).
In Budget 2022, the government allocated RM13 million for the D11 unit.