This morning, I received a phone call from a friend of mine. She was ecstatic.
After eight long years of battling in court, her ex-husband finally caved in and agreed to an out-of-court settlement.
It’s a life story with all the makings of a rags-to-riches tale, the kind you watch on the big screen.
They were childhood sweethearts from a small town in Kedah. Married at twenty, with little education to rely on, they worked very hard to build a good life together. But no matter how hard they worked, life in a small town fell short of fulfilling their needs. Thus, they moved to the big city, Kuala Lumpur.
The realities of KL were far more difficult from what either had imagined. But, like all determined couples, they decided to stick it out and bite the bullet.
She parted with all her heirloom jewellery, investing it as seed capital for her husband’s new business venture.
While he strived to make his business work, she devoted herself to smaller business ventures of her own, selling home-made ‘kuih’ and ‘nasi lemak’ by roadside stalls. Day in, day out, the routine was sheer hard work. But it paid the bills, put food on the table, and gave her husband ample time to focus on his business.
A few years (and a few false starts) later, his security business finally took off. Roaringly so, in fact. And its timing couldn’t have been better – my friend was pregnant with her first child.
Over the years, while he spent countless hours at the office, she handled everything on the homefront on her own, sacrificing on luxuries as any dedicated wife would.
Their years of struggle seemed to have paid off. Business boomed. He opened branches of his business, subsidiary companies, bought properties and owned several cars. Life was good, and they lived like veritable royalty.
But behind the façade, their happy life was a lie. With his new-found wealth, he also found other companions.
One day, her husband left and never came home. A letter from the Syariah Court followed. Soon, their divorce was final.
With paid bouncers at his beck and call, my friend and her two children were evicted from their home. With the little worldly possessions she had left, she struggled to build a new life for herself and her two children. But it wasn’t easy. After all, it is a man’s world, and the words ‘women’s rights’ are barely even whispered, much less spoken outright in the vicinity of the Syariah Court.
With no real work experience or education, she depended solely on child support. But despite the court granting her and her children sufficient alimony, the funds rarely came through – she was always at the mercy of her ex-husband’s ‘generosity’.
At times, he would transfer a couple of hundred, and sometimes nothing at all. Her complaints and reports to the court came to nought.
In the meantime, she returned to her ‘karipap’ and ‘nasi lemak’ business. On weekends, it was her ‘nasi tomato’ catering. Through the years, she did everything to survive – direct selling, buying and selling clothes, babysitting for a minimal fee – she did it all.
That’s why that morning wake-up call from her filled me with joy. I felt that she had finally received what was rightfully hers. Although her teenage girls lost a big chunk of their childhood because of her inability to provide them with the things they needed, they persevered together.
My friend can finally breathe a sigh of relief. But out there, countless other women continue battling cases in the Syariah Court and struggle every single day, not knowing how to make ends meet. Most of them don’t receive the alimony or the child support they are entitled to. And the waiting game continues.
Having fought my own battle in the Syariah Court, I can tell you it’s a long and lonely road. While something as simple as monthly pay deductions could solve most alimony and child support issues, the authorities’ feathers are, strangely, unruffled.
Why isn’t the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development making any effort to help the women and children who are victimised by the flaws in our legal system?
Why is Minister Rohani Abdul Karim addressing a simple matter such as breastfeeding selfies, but silent when it comes to vital issues such as alimony?
Rohani speaks about our values in relation to breastfeeding, but what about her own values?
More importantly, how does she reconcile indulging in such trivial matters whilst ignoring the vast majority of women who continue to struggle every day on real issues such as alimony and justice in our legal system?
Meanwhile, I read that a male ustaz has jumped on the bandwagon, saying that breastfeeding selfies are haram and should be deleted when they pop-up on social media.
Let’s get real. Let’s stop addressing fluff stuff.
Child support, alimony and justice for women in Syariah and Family Courts are the more important issues that everyone should be discussing.
Isn’t it time we addressed the real ‘haram’ in our midst?