Monday, November 17, 2014

Kula: Gov’t callous on unilateral conversions

2:48PM Nov 16, 2014 Malaysiakini

By Terence Netto

Kula: Gov’t callous on unilateral conversions

DAP vice-chair M Kulasegaran has urged the tightening of the law pertaining to the dissolution of marriage as an avenue to thwart unilateral conversion of minors by a disgruntled spouse.

Speaking at a forum on Tamil awakening in Butterworth today, the MP for Ipoh Barat, who has been counsel to M Indira Gandhi, the woman whose infant daughter was converted to Islam by her estranged husband in 2009, said it was long past time a satisfactory and lasting solution to the problem of unilateral conversions is found.

“The only law that clearly sets out the situation when a non-Muslim spouse converts to Islam wherein the rights are spelt out is Section 51 of the law on dissolution of marriage,” said the federal legislator.

“The court upon dissolving the marriage may make provision for the wife or husband and for the support, care and custody of the children of the marriage, if any, and may attach any conditions to the decree of the dissolution as it thinks fit,” added Kulasegaran.

He said Section 51 should guide all parties when one spouse converts to Islam.

The DAP leader said Section 51 should be strengthened such that it is the only remedy when an estranged spouse converts to Islam.

He said the favored recourse of some estranged spouses to proceed to the Syariah courts to obtain the necessary orders to convert minors was a circumvention of the civil law which civil courts were willing to strike down but empowered agencies are loath to enforce.

“If the cabinet committee formed in 2009 to tackle unilateral conversion of minors is petrified at the magnitude of the problem, then perhaps a tightening of Section 51 of the Marriage Dissolution Act becomes the obvious recourse,” opined Kulasegaran.

He said if the government was unwilling to act to assuage the anguish felt by a parent left abruptly bereft of infant children by an estranged spouse, then existing laws should be tightened to render bereavements impermissible.

“The issues are certainly not occasional tempests in teacups but pertain to the most fundamental of human rights - that of a parent to the custody and care of infant children and minors even in the throes of marital conflict,” said Kulasegaran.

“The impersonal mechanisms of the law must suffice where executive will is lacking or executants themselves have chosen to remain callously indifferent,” chided the lawmaker.

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