The president of Mali has announced that he is not going to sign the country's new family law, instead returning it to parliament for review.
By Martin Vogl
BBC News, Bamako
Muslim groups have been protesting against the law, which gives greater rights to women, ever since parliament adopted it at the start of the month. President Amadou Toumani Toure said he was sending the law back for the sake of national unity. Muslim leaders have called the law the work of the devil and against Islam. More than 90% of Mali's population is Muslim. Some of the provisions that have proved controversial give more rights to women.For example, under the new law women are no longer required to obey their husbands, instead husbands and wives owe each other loyalty and protection.
Women get greater inheritance rights, and the minimum age for girls to marry in most circumstances is raised to 18. One of the other key points Muslims have objected to is the fact that marriage is defined as a secular institution. Tens of thousands have turned out at protests in Bamako in recent weeks and there have been other demonstrations against the law across the country. It is a political defeat for President Toure, who was a strong backer of the new law. It has only been the continuing angry protests by Muslim groups that have forced him to send the law back to parliament. In his statement on national television the president was forced to admit that the population is yet to be convinced by the new code.
"After extensive consultations with the various state institutions, with civil society, with the religious community and the legal profession, I have taken this decision to send the family code for a second reading to ensure calm and a peaceful society, and to obtain the support and understanding of our fellow citizens."
It was clear from his speech that the president also thinks there has been a lot of false information circulating about the code and the government will no doubt also try to address this in the coming weeks.
The head of Mali's High Islamic Council says he was pleased with the president's decision.
Women's groups are heartbroken - they have been trying for more than 10 years to get the law changed.