Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    Development, culture and the dilemma of equality in 'modern' Omani society: the practice of Kafa'a in marriage and Talaq
    Al-Azri, Khalid Mohamed ( 2008)
    This thesis explores the tension between socio-economic development and religious-tribal culture in contemporary Omani society. This exploration is based on the investigation of two cultural traditions in Oman: kafa 'a in marriage and talaq. Whereas kafa 'a refers to the idea that the husband's family should be equal or superior in terms of social, religious or economic background to the wife's family if the marriage is to be accepted, talaq refers to the right of the husband to unilaterally divorce his wife. The social practice and cultural justification of kafa 'a in marriage and talaq in contemporary Oman are recognized by the State authority and enhanced by the State's Family Law which derives its justification from Islam. Thus, both kafa 'a and talaq as they are practiced in Oman are, as argued throughout this thesis, not merely Islamic, but more importantly, are inextricably linked to the socio-political and cultural nature of the current Omani State. While the rhetoric of the State of Oman asserts that equality exists between Omanis regardless of their gender and ethno-linguistic and cultural backgrounds, cultural constraints associated with marriage and talaq perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women and other groups. In this thesis, I argue that kafa 'a in marriage and the rules regarding unilateral and triple talaq demonstrates Oman's persistence in maintaining tribal and religious traditions that are at odds with the State's rhetoric on equality and modernization. Kafa 'a was developed in the second Islamic century within the context of other social, economic and legal changes, which occurred in the early development of Islamic law. While kafa 'a literally means equality, in practice it is associated with social, religious and economic inequality and discrimination. The Omani Personal Status Law stipulates kafa 'a in marriage and culture justifies the practice of kafa 'a in society. Unilateral and triple talaq as it is literally interpreted by religious scholars and socially practiced in Oman, not only represents inequality between men and women, but it is also indicative of the way in which Omani society deals with the social and economic problems associated with modernization. The legal recognition of kafa'a in marriage and the social practice of talaq are inconsistent with the State's rhetoric on equality and modernization, and demonstrate the necessity for the reform of religious and tribal practices in Oman in a manner commensurate with the socio-economic development that has taken place since 1970.