Without unilateral conversion ban, what reform is left? Hindu mom asks Putrajaya

M. Indira Gandhi lamented the withdrawal of the amendment to a law that would have banned unilateral child conversion. — File picture by Saw Siow Feng
M. Indira Gandhi lamented the withdrawal of the amendment to a law that would have banned unilateral child conversion. — File picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7 — Putrajaya’s decision to has left a Hindu mother disappointed with the reform promised by the government.

M. Indira Gandhi lamented the futility of her lengthy legal battle for the custody of her child who was unilaterally converted into Islam, Prasana Diksa, that made national headlines years ago — and still does.

“What were all those years of battle for?” the mother of three asked in exasperation, when contacted by Malay Mail Online.

“So what’s the use of amending the Bill? We are fighting for that Section 88A only. Since they have dropped it, what other new things are they really going to bring in the Bill?”

Putrajaya had earlier today withdrew a Bill from Parliament that would have prohibited the religious conversion of children needing only the consent of one parent after conservative Muslims protested against it.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman informed the withdrawal of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the Dewan Rakyat this morning.

In a statement issued later, Azalina said the government will table a new version of the Bill for first reading tomorrow, but with the removal of Section 88(A) that states that should a spouse convert to Islam, a child must remain in the religion of the parents during their marriage prior to the conversion unless both spouses agree to convert their child to Islam, subject to the child’s wishes upon turning 18.

“The amendments concern couples who enter into a civil marriage. If one converts thereafter, it is only fair to seek the permission of the spouse who did not, if their offsprings can be converted. What is so unfair about that? Don’t both parents have equal rights on their children?

“What about the non-Muslims? Aren’t our welfare important too?” Indira asked, expressing worry that the government’s decision today would just continue the “endless vicious cycle” parents like her are forced to face.

“There is not going to be an end to this story,” she added.

Many had anticipated the government to table the Bill for second reading in the current Dewan Rakyat sitting after it was already delayed in April.

Custodial tussles in cases of unilateral child conversions have been a growing concern over the years and provide a high-profile glimpse of the concerns of Malaysia’s religious minorities over the perceived dominance of Islam in the country.

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