Respect constitutional right of both parents to determine religion of child

0
87
Photograph: The Star

Hakam notes with concern an attempt to table a bill in the Selangor State Assembly to allow unilateral conversions of children.

This move directly contradicts the ruling of the Federal Court in Indira Gandhi a/p Mutho v Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak & Ors and other appeals [2018]. Our apex court clearly held that Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution must be read to mean that both parents’ consent is required to determine the religion of a child.

Hakam urges all Selangor State Assembly members to pay due regard to Article 75 of the Federal Constitution, which states that any laws passed by states which are inconsistent with the Federal Constitution are void.

Hakam also calls for all parties to take note of the Federal Court’s reference to Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961, which provides Malaysia’s underlying family policy that:

  • a mother shall have the same rights and authority as the law allows to a father
  • the rights and authority of mother and father shall be equal

Furthermore, the welfare of the child is of paramount consideration. It is undesirable for a significant decision such as the conversion of a child to be made without the consent of both parents – and any such attempts are arguably not done in the child’s best interests.

Hakam also urges all parties to take into account that such unilateral conversion laws have been abused in the past and present by certain parents to gain custody of the child. More often than not, as in the case of Indira Gandhi, it is the parent from the minority religion who is disadvantaged under the law and suffers the greatest hardships.

READ MORE:  Unilateral conversion of minors an assault on families

One must not forget that at the end of the day, the foundational principles of the Federal Constitution were built to protect the various diverse communities and religions. It would be most unfortunate if such a delicate compromise is undermined in the New Malaysia.

Lim Wei Jiet is secretary-general of Hakam.

(Visited 84 times, 1 visits today)
Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.

Join the conversation

avatar
750
  Subscribe  
Notify of