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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 04:02 GMT 05:02 UK
Malaysia reviews texting divorce
By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

The Malaysian cabinet has promised to change the country's laws to discourage men from divorcing their wives by means of electronic messages.

Mobile sending a text
The PM's religious adviser had endorsed text message divorce
An Islamic court in the country declared last week that a Muslim man had legally ended his marriage by sending his wife a mobile telephone text message.

That ruling had been endorsed by the prime minister's religious affairs adviser.

Now, however, the government says it will consider increasing the fines and jail sentences for men who pronounce the talak - or declaration of divorce - by electronic means, such as e-mail, fax or text message.

Men who declare divorce outside a court already face up to three years in jail.

Condemnation

Malaysians love high technology - just over half the population own mobile phones.

But just over half of Malaysians are also Muslims and bound by Islamic sharia law, rooted in scriptures 1,400 years old.

Even the country's Prime Minister, Doctor Mahathir Mohamad, accepts that this can occasionally cause problems.

Last week, a sharia court declared that a text message sent by a man to his wife reading "if you don't leave your parents house, you'll be divorced", had legal force.

While it may be correct from other angles, it is not the way to get a divorce, Doctor Mahathir told reporters.

Last week's court ruling was condemned by women's groups and Malaysia's minister for women, who accused a small minority of Muslim men of damaging the reputation of Islam.

Sharia law requires a man to tell his wife three times that he divorces her. At least one declaration must be before a religious official.

Women wishing to end their marriages are subject to a far more arduous procedure under Islamic law.




SEE ALSO:
Malaysia permits text message divorce
27 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Anger over mobile divorce ruling
11 Jul 01  |  Asia-Pacific


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