The Dhaka High Court last week barred women from registering Nikkah, the legal Islamic religious wedding for Muslim couples. The court cited ‘certain physical conditions’ referring to menstruation as the reason for the ban. As per the ruling, since the women cannot enter a mosque during menstruation and this physical disqualification means they cannot conduct religious tasks such as registering a marriage. In traditional Islam, women are also not allowed to perform mandatory daily prayers or fast while menstruating. The court’s decision has courted criticism countrywide.
The court was ruling on a petition by Ayesha Siddiqua, from Dinajpur District in northern Bangladesh, who was refused employment by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs as a Muslim marriage registrar as she is a woman. She was among three women chosen as the marriage registration official in the district.
The Muslim wedding is usually performed by a male cleric and it must be legally registered afterwards. Before the Dhaka High Court judgement, a government official irrespective of the gender could register a marriage. The legal documents can be signed in the mosque, a government office or at the brides home.
Women are permitted to perform marriage registration is some Islamic countries as this is not a religious ceremony which is performed by Imam’s. Marriage registration is considered to be a government function rather than a religious function.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt allow women to be appointed as marriage registrars.