President Abdulla Yameen ratified Thursday amendments to the Family Act that will allow for the equitable distribution of marital property after divorce, despite opposition from religious scholars and ruling-party lawmakers.
The Progressive Party of the Maldives-dominated parliament approved the amendments on April 18 with 50 votes in favour, four against, and five abstentions.
The amendments grant judges the power to divide property acquired during the course of a marriage, but only if the couple signs a prenuptial agreement agreeing to equitable distribution of marital property upon divorce.
Most Maldivians do not sign prenuptial agreements.
Marital property includes income and assets a couple acquires during the course of their marriage.
Judges must consider the duration of marriage and the contributions each partner made while dividing property. A woman’s contribution as a wife and mother must be considered even if she may not have worked for or contributed financially to acquiring marital property.
Additionally, the court could order the husband to pay child support or alimony payments and provide financial support to his ex-wife.
The gender ministry is now tasked with establishing guidelines on the specifics of property division.
PPM MPs Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim, Jaufar Dawood, and Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim as well as Jumhoore Party MP Ibrahim Hassan had cast dissenting votes after objecting to the changes on religious grounds.
“I do not care even if I am dismissed from PPM, I will not vote for [the proposed changes],” Waheed had declared during the final debate on the bill last month. He added that the family court cannot defer a decision on granting divorces without ruling on property distribution.
Religious conservative NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf’s president, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohamed, meanwhile contended in a tweet that Islamic Sharia prescribes specific rules and procedures for asset distribution after divorce.
“Laws passed in contravention of [Sharia] are false,” he said.
In a speech last January, Yameen had falsely listed the amendments among the achievements of his administration.
The pro-government majority in parliament had sent the bill back to committee when it was first put to a vote last November after differences of opinion among ruling coalition lawmakers.
Yameen had vowed to pass the legislation during his presidential address at the opening of parliament last year.
The PPM had also pledged in its manifesto to ensure that women get their fair share of common property after divorce.