Thursday, March 10, 2016

'Fate of unilateral conversion reforms worrying as no firm date'




Putrajaya may have announced that planned law reforms to address the unilateral conversion of minors is ready but without a firm date on when it will be tabled in Parliament, there is much cause for concern, said Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran.


He was responding to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri who said the draft legislation is awaiting feedback from the minister in charge of Islamic affairs and vowed to see it pushed through.


Despite the assurance, Kulasegaran, who handles unilateral conversion cases, described the response without a firm date as "disappointing" and a "big cause of worry".


Kulasegaran highlighted similar proposals and assurances since 2009 which have yielded no results.


"Since the cabinet made the decision to ban the unilateral conversion of minors in 2009, more than one committee was set up to study the necessary law changes required to put into real effect the cabinet’s decision.


"Despite the high profile Indira Gandhi and S Deepa cases, the trauma and pain that they have had to go through and the extreme injustice that they have had to suffer, the government has shown its lack of political will in putting into real effect the 2009 cabinet decision.


"It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that such an issue which is like a time bomb that can affect religious harmony, is not resolved with the urgency that it deserves," he said.


Several conversion tussles have come about after a spouse who had converted to Islam, gains custody of the children through the syariah courts.


Meanwhile, the other spouse who is still a non-Muslim, obtains custody of the children through the civil courts, leaving the two legal systems in conflict.


In contrast to Putrajaya's long delay in resolving this issue, Kulasegaran pointed out that Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hassan had last year taken his own initiative to address the matter.


The Negeri Sembilan government requires any couple in a civil union to first dissolve their marriage and resolve custodial issues through civil law, if they cannot agree on converting to Islam.


"The government must not delay any more and must give a firm date as to when the necessary law reforms will be presented to Parliament," said Kulasegaran.

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