Divorce law reform leaves Hindu moms in custody row with mixed feelings

Source: The Malay Mail Online

M. Indira Gandhi (left) and S. Deepa are the focus of custody battles involving their former husbands who are Muslim converts. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

M. Indira Gandhi (left) and S. Deepa are the focus of custody battles involving their former husbands who are Muslim converts. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Hindu mothers S. Deepa and M. Indira Gandhi have reportedly expressed mixed feelings over the recently announced amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

In a report by The Star Online, S. Deepa applauded the move but M. Indira Gandhi expressed her doubts, with both embroiled in lengthy legal battles over their children’s custody following their ex-husbands’ conversion into Islam.

“My prayers have finally been answered,” Deepa, currently a waitress, told the portal.

The 32-year-old woman, whose ex-husband unilaterally converted their two children into Islam, said she was happy that others would receive justice although she herself has “lost” her son.

“I lost everything … my hairdressing salon business, my house and I even had to leave my family, friends and hometown of Jelebu because of the case.

“I am still struggling to make ends meet in a place alien to me but at least others will not suffer what I went through,” she added.

On February 10, the Federal Court granted Deepa granted custody of the couple’s 11-year old daughter Sharmila, also called Nur Nabila, while her ex-husband Izwan Abdullah got custody of their eight-year-old son Mithran, also called Nabil, after the judges interviewed the children. Read more

Government urged to address issue of unilateral conversion

Source: The Malay Mail Online

S. Deepa speaks to members of the media at the Federal Court in Putrajaya. — Picture by Yusoff Mat Isa

S. Deepa speaks to members of the media at the Federal Court in Putrajaya. — Picture by Yusoff Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA — The government’s move to give civil courts full jurisdiction in divorce and custody cases involving spouses who convert to Islam has led to discussions on the issue of unilateral conversion.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat, welcoming the announcement on Thursday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said the proposed amendments had taken a long time coming as the idea was first discussed in 2009.

“Firstly, the general idea that the converting spouse should be held accountable under civil law is an excellent notion,” he said.

Fahri said this could resolve the issue of conflicting orders such as was the case with his client S. Deepa who obtained a civil order in the custody battle over her two children with her former husband, Izwan Abdullah, obtaining a Shariah court order.

However, he was wary of the issue of unilateral conversion in which the converting spouse had the right to convert his/her child.

Fahri believed children should have the right to decide even before they become majors.

Najib had said the government will table a bill amending the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 when Parliament resumes in October.

Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) executive committee member Ivy Josiah, who welcomed the announcement, wants the government to address the issue of unilateral conversion. Read more

Minister pledges commitment to end interfaith disputes, says doesn’t want Islam misused

Source: The Malay Mail Online

dewan_rakyat_signpost_2015_-_parliament_reportKUALA LUMPUR, March 9 ― As debate reignites over unilateral child conversions and interfaith custody disputes, Muslim minister Nancy Shukri expressed today her personal commitment to carry out law reforms, saying she does not want her religion misused by individuals for their own ends.

The de facto law minister was responding to a DAP MP who pressed the government on its commitment to a 2009 Cabinet decision that affirmed a child would not be unilaterally converted to another religion when one parent does.

“What has become your worry ― seven years, I am also worried, because this has already become my responsibility here to ensure that we solve this problem.

“And this is not just for politics, because I as a Muslim, I also do not want our religion to be toyed with, don’t want people to misuse religion as an excuse to achieve their desires. So this has become our joint responsibility in this House, so if there are good suggestions, we are ready to carry it,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department told Parliament during Question Time. Read more

Federal Court erred in giving custody to Muslim convert, says Bar chief

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

The Malaysian Bar has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Court’s decision to grant Muslim convert custody of his son despite being in contempt of a High Court order.

Its president, Steven Thiru, said Izwan Abdullah (or N.Viran) defied the High Court custody order as well as a specific order prohibiting him from removing the children from ex-wife, S. Deepa.

He said Deepa was compelled to obtain a recovery order to direct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and his officers to regain custody of her son, Mithran (Nabil) from Izwan.

“They did not comply with the recovery order, on the basis that there were conflicting custody orders by the Shariah Court and High Court,” he said in a statement. Read more

Shariah court custody order valid in Deepa-Izwan case, says Federal Court

Source: The Malaysian Insider

The Federal Court says in the case of S. Deepa v. Izwan Abdullah, the Shariah court custody order is valid until it is set aside. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 15, 2016.

The Federal Court said a custody order issued by the Seremban Shariah court to Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah is valid even though religious courts have no jurisdiction to dissolve civil marriages.

Judge Tan Sri Raus Sharif said a custody order by the Shariah court was lawful under section 52 (2) of the Child Act.

“We are of the view that, in light of the existence of the two conflicting custodial orders, the High Court judge should not have entertained the application of the ex-wife (S. Deepa) for the recovery of Mithran from her ex-husband,” Raus said in the judgment released today. Read more

Hanya Mahkamah Tinggi boleh beri remedi kepada pasangan selepas tukar agama

Sumber: The Malaysian Insider

A picture of the Kuala Lumpur High Court in this picture dated February 5, 2015. The Federal Court ruled in the S. Deepa v. Izwan Abdullah interfaith custody case that only the High Court can give remedy to spouse even if the partner converted. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 15, 2016.

A picture of the Kuala Lumpur High Court in this picture dated February 5, 2015. The Federal Court ruled in the S. Deepa v. Izwan Abdullah interfaith custody case that only the High Court can give remedy to spouse even if the partner converted. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 15, 2016.

Pindaan 1988 kepada Mahkamah Persekutuan untuk menghentikan mahkamah sivil daripada campur tangan dalam hal ehwal Mahkamah Syariah tidak termasuk Mahkamah Tinggi daripada memberikan remedi kepada individu jika pasangannya menukar agama kepada Islam, kata Mahkamah Persekutuan menerusi penghakimannya minggu lalu dalam perbalahan hak penjagaan anak berbeza agama.

Hakim Tan Sri Raus Sharif berkata, dalam kes itu, bekas suami (Izwan Abdullah) dan bekas isteri (S Deepa) beragama Hindu ketika berkahwin.

“Dengan mengenakan perkahwinan sivil di bawah Akta Memperharui Undang-undang (LRA) 1976, mereka terikat dengan peruntukan berkaitan perceraian dan hak jagaan anak daripada perkahwinan itu. Read more

Create legislation to ensure both parents provide consent for child conversions, lawyers say

Source: The Malay Mail Online

S. Deepa speaks to members of the media at the Federal Court in Putrajaya. — Picture by Yusoff Mat Isa

S. Deepa speaks to members of the media at the Federal Court in Putrajaya. — Picture by Yusoff Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — Unilateral conversion need not be criminalised as suggested by MCA Youth, lawyers said today, but instead ought to be appropriately legislated and enforced by religious officers to ensure that minors are not secretly converted by just one parent.

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said all that was necessary to prevent interfaith custody battles when one spouse unilaterally converts minors without the knowledge of the other was legislation requiring both parents to provide consent.

“We need to enact legislation to state that the religion of minors must be determined by both parents, not just one parent. Not everything must be criminalised,” he said via text message to Malay Mail Online.

Lawyers for Liberty campaign coordinator Melissa Sasidaran added that criminalising unilateral conversions is no solution and instead, the burden should be on religious authorities to ensure that both parents sign on when converting their children.

“Burden should lie on the religious authorities to make sure consent of both parents especially new converts is obtained before converting the children. Read more

Deepa should wait for outcome of Indira’s conversion appeal, say lawyers

Source: The Malaysian Insider

S. Deepa says there should be better laws to safeguard women like her, especially when their husbands convert to Islam. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 14, 2016.

Lawyers have advised Hindu mother S. Deepa to wait for the Federal Court outcome on unilateral conversion before she decides to determine the religious status of her two children.

They said the legal challenge mounted by kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi from Ipoh could be decided this year.

“It is best for Deepa to wait for a Federal Court decision on unilateral conversion before deciding her next move,” lawyer K. Shanmuga told The Malaysian Insider.

Indira’s ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, formerly known as K. Patmanathan, had unilaterally converted their three children to Islam. Read more

After Deepa ruling, lawyers say child custody should go to the non-violent parent

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Izwan Abdullah, formerly known as N Viran in a custody battle with ex-wife S. Deepa

Izwan Abdullah, formerly known as N Viran in a custody battle with ex-wife S. Deepa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 — The courts should favour granting custody of children to the non-violent parent insteading of sending them to live with the one accused of domestic abuse, the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) said today.

Commenting on the Federal Court’s split custody of one child each to Hindu mother S. Deepa and her Muslim convert ex-husband Izwan Abdullah, AWL president Goh Siu Lin noted the judges had reached their decision by interviewing the two children Mithran and Sharmila —  aged eight and 11 respectively.

But Goh highlighted that Deepa had not only complained of domestic violence by Izwan through more than seven police reports from 2007 to 2012, but had received an interim protection order against Izwan on August 2013.

For child custody dispute cases like Deepa’s where there was domestic violence, Goh said many countries including the United States (US) have changed how they view the best interests of the child.

“It may be timely for Malaysia to implement legal reform and structural changes to keep abreast of legal developments in the area of domestic violence and custodial rights,” she said in a statement. Read more

Separating siblings in custody order tears family apart, say family law experts

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Family law practitioners say separating the children in a custody dispute, like in the case of S. Deepa (centre), is not encouraged as it will tear the family apart. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 12, 2016.

Although the court decision to separate two siblings in a custody dispute as in the S. Deepa case is not unprecedented, lawyers, including family law practitioners, say it is not encouraged as the family will be torn apart.

The lawyers also expressed concern that the Federal Court judges decided to interview the siblings, Sharmila (Nurul Nabila) and Mithran (Nabil), before ruling on a custody dispute following the unilateral conversion of the children to Islam by their father Izwan Abdullah.

Lawyer Goh Siu Lin said the court would usually strive to keep the children together after interviewing the minors, going through reports from experts and the social welfare department.

“In deciding custody, the court will take into account the best interest of the child,” said Goh who is also president of Women Lawyers Association.

She said siblings should remain together although the parents were divorced. Read more