Suhakam urges respect for child’s rights to religion, identity

Thasha Jayamanogaran
Suhakam said a child's right to preserve his or her identity must be respected and taken into consideration in the assessment of the child’s best interests. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, August 22 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today reiterated that international conventions protect a child’s right to preserve his or her own identity amid debate over a potential Selangor state law to allow unilateral religious conversion.

The commission said Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) must be respected and taken into consideration in the assessment of the child’s best interests.

“Suhakam supports the unanimous decision of the Federal Court in the case of M. Indira Gandhi on 29 January 2018, who have interpreted the word ‘parent’ in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution to include both parents, giving due recognition to the importance of both parents, which is a common-sense interpretation of the law.

“We believe that amending Article 12(4) to clarify the original intent of the Constitution, or by enacting a law that will comprehensively articulate the responsibilities, rights and privileges related to the identity, including religion, of minors will safeguard the core values of tolerance, understanding and mutual respect in matters relating to freedom of religion and belief in our society,” it said in a statement.

Suhakam’s statement comes after news reports of pressure on the Selangor government to table a Bill allowing unilateral religious conversions of a child under 18, despite a federal court ruling disallowing such an act.

The 2018 ruling made in the case of Hindu mother Indira whose three children were unilaterally converted to Islam by their father and her ex-husband was a landmark judgment.

Indira is now planning a nationwide roadshow starting in Kuala Lumpur this weekend in search of her youngest daughter Prasana Diksa who was taken away at age 11 months a decade ago by the father.

Yesterday it was reported that Indira is set to start a roadshow nationwide to seek help from the public to locate her missing daughter Prasana Diksa, who was abducted by her Muslim convert former husband now going by the name Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah.

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