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Abstract

One of the subtle but most pervasive areas of discrimination against women in the Muslim world today is the inequality that occurs within the context of the family. Throughout Muslim countries and contexts, Muslim women are speaking out about such discrimination and are fighting for reform of family laws to promote justice and equality within the family. This Article outlines key discriminatory provisions within Malaysia's Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act of 1984 and the efforts being made by Muslim women in Malaysia to advocate for comprehensive reform of Malaysian Muslim family laws. This effort includes developing an understanding of why and how reform of Muslim family laws is possible using new progressive scholarship on justice, equality, and the construction of gender in Islam; coping with challenges to law reform that arise generally and within the Muslim context; and exploring strategies that have been used by women's groups in other Muslim countries to push for reform. Based on these lessons, activists in Malaysia have developed a draft model family law grounded in the Islamic principles of equality and justice and have prepared a guide to the proposed provisions, with justifications for reform based on a holistic framework that emphasizes four elements: religious principles, domestic laws and policies, international human rights law, and sociological trends and data that present the lived realities of women in Malaysian families. In addition, women's organizations have commenced a national public education campaign to build support across a broad constituency of women 's rights and human rights groups and at the grassroots level to build and sustain the momentum for reform.

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