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Kulai MP: Child conversion goes against UN convention

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The bill allowing for unilateral child conversion should be withdrawn as the provision is against the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Malaysia is a signatory, said Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching "The Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 on unilateral conversion of minors to Islam is against the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). "It (the bill) should be reviewed and withdrawn immediately" said Teo in a press statement today. Teo ( right ), who is DAP assistant national publicity secretary, cited Article 18.1 of the CRC which says: "States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child." Teo added, "As a party to the CRC, Malaysia recognises that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child." "By allowing a minor to be converted to the religion of Islam with a single parent's consent, we are going to deny the non-converting parent from playing his/her role in the upbringing of the child." The proposed amendment to the bill, which states that only one parent's consent is needed to convert a minor to Islam, has drawn widespread criticism from the Bar Council, NGOs, BN component parties as well as from several members of the cabinet .

The CRC, which Malaysia ratified in 1995, is considered a legally-binding document under international law. While Teo didn't mention it, the CRC also states that children have the right to freedom of religion and that parents should only "provide direction". "14.1 States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

14.2 States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

Rights of children must be upheld


July 3, 2013
COMMENT

By Charles Santiago Its almost seems like a joke. I am referring to what ruling party leaders spew out, except that their words send a shiver down my spine and have major repercussions on our society. A Barisan Nasional lawmaker, Bung Mokhtar Radin, has asked AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman Rani to migrate. And all Rani did was to criticize the Malay daily, Utusan Malaysia, over its racial editorials. In another attack against AirAsia, a BN MP has raised the issue of the low-cost carrier reviewing the length of its cabin crews skirt.

It really amuses me that lawmakers are debating frivolous issues, especially when there is a nationwide uproar against the governments efforts to push through the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act Amendment Bill 2013 that seeks to ensure that permission from just one parent is enough to convert a child to Islam. This strips children off their inherent right to choose their religion when they reach 18 years of age. This Bill has received condemnation even from BNs component parties, with one political party threatening to take the government to court. Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995 to uphold its commitment to the protection and welfare of her children. Although this was a major step for the country, its ratification contained a number of reservations to the provisions of the CRC. These reservations were put in place since there were discrepancies between these CRC articles and some national and Syariah laws. Malaysia submitted its first report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2006, and in return the Committee submitted its Concluding Observations to Malaysia in 2007. One of its crucial observations was that Malaysia reviews its dual legal system, the civil and syariah laws, as some domestic laws are obstacles to the full realization of the CRC in the country. Six years later, we are faced with BN discreetly trying to ram the Bill down our throats, with even its coalition partners left in the dark. If Malaysia was trying to show it is serious when it ratified the CRC, then the state should protect the rights of children and not force conversion issues on them. It does not take a brilliant mind to figure out that the Bill, if passed, would give an advantage to one partner who simply has to convert to Islam to gain custody of the children. I know we have heard many arguments against the Bill, which are linked to the encroachment on the rights of non-Muslims and alienating the non-Muslims even further. But more importantly we should not forget that this issue concerns children who would be subjected to the whims and fancy of one parent, whereby taking away their freedom of choice. As such, ratifying the CRC is not enough. The government must grow a political spine to ensure the rights of children are upheld and not infringed upon. And in this case, ensure that religion and the ego of parents do not crush those rights. Charles Santiago is DAPs MP for Klang

Respecting our childrens freedomAmar Singh


JU LY 02, 201 3

I want to thank every media or editor that has spoken up against the proposal by our government to introduce a law allowing one parent to change their childrens religion. It shows the courage of that media/editor and expresses the opinion of the majority of Malaysians. This attempt by the government to introduce such a law is a violation of the basic human rights of any individual and shows how little they respect the fundamental freedoms of our children. The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has been available since 1989 and signed by our Malaysian Prime Minister in December 1994. The UNCRC outlines the basic rights that should be accorded to any child. The fact that Malaysia is signatory underlines that the government of Malaysia is committed to uphold these fundamental rights. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children. Article 3 of the UNCRC clearly states that the best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect children. And that all adults, including the governing body of the country, should do what is best for children. This clearly includes policies and laws. Article 14 speaks about the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. To quote Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should help guide their children in these matters. The Convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children. Religious groups around the world have expressed support for the Convention, which indicates that it in no way prevents parents from bringing their children up within a religious tradition. At the same time, the Convention recognises that as children mature and are able to form their own views, some may question certain religious practices or cultural traditions. The Convention supports children's right to examine their beliefs, but it also states that their right to express their beliefs implies respect for the rights and freedoms of others. This article acknowledges that it is our inherent right to choose what we want to believe in and this is in line with all religions of the world. No religion practises compulsion, only its misguided followers do so. Every human being, child or adult must be given the freedom to choose what they want to believe in. To remove this is a breach of our fundamental freedoms. That we have laws

prohibiting adults to choose their faith is unbelievable. To impose this on children without their choice is unthinkable. No child, parent or professional of any religious persuasion I have spoken to in the past few days have disagreed with this. It is unthinkable that anyone can choose my job, marriage partner or even my next meal without my permission. But here we are, allowing one parent to make a decision on our most important choice in life. The truth is that neither parent should choose, the individual should do so when they are mature enough and also be allowed to change their choice later in life. Article 4 of the UNCRC speaks of the responsibility of the government to take ALL available measures to make sure childrens rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Governments are obligated to help families protect childrens rights and create an environment where they can grow and reach their potential. If the government introduces this law, it will violate the heart of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will announce to the whole world that Malaysians are willing to trample on the basic rights of every child in the country. It will clearly show we do not respect our children as thinking individuals and are prepared to treat them as objects. This law is NOT in the best interests of children, which must be our primary concern. Article 12 & 13 of the UNCRC speak about respecting the views of children when making decisions that affect them and as well as ensuring they have freedom of expression. I ask all Malaysians who respect children to uphold their fundamental freedoms. In our society where those in authority seldom listen to or consult children, let us collectively be their voice to oppose this injustice. I appeal to all Malaysians elected to public office to defeat this unjust legislation and place the interests and rights of our children at its rightful place.

*Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS is a Senior Consultant Community Paediatrician and reads The Malaysian Insider.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children have rights as human beings and also need special care and protection.

UNICEFs mission is to advocate for the protection of childrens rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided in doing this by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standardsalso called human rightsset minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With these rights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others. These standards are both interdependent and indivisible; we cannot ensure some rights withoutor at the expense ofother rights.

A legally binding instrument


The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rightscivil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too. The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the Convention (by ratifying or acceding to it), national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

Child Custody and Religion


When parents of different faiths separate, how do courts decide whose religion the children will follow?

When parents of different faiths separate, they don't always agree on whose religion the children will follow. With increasing numbers of interfaith marriages and high divorce rates, this topic has recently been argued in courtrooms across the country. The results? A hodgepodge of decisions using different standards to establish different rules. The Rights of Parents vs. The Best Interests of the Child

When called upon to resolve disputes between separated or divorced parents who disagree about the religious upbringing of their children, courts attempt to balance competing concerns. On one hand, courts must protect an individual parent's First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion as well as the right to raise children as that parent sees fit, as long as the parenting choices do not endanger the welfare of the child. On the other hand, when making decisions about custody and visitation arrangements, courts must protect the best interests of the child. When one parent complains that the other parent's religious activities are not in the best interests of the child, courts have the difficult task of deciding whether it is necessary to encroach upon the other parent's First Amendment and parenting rights by limiting religious activities. In some cases, the courts will take the wishes of the child into account. In In re Marriage of Boldt, 344 Or. 1 (2008), the state supreme court sent a case back down to the trial court with instructions that the trial judge take evidence about the opinions of a twelve-year-old boy about whether he should be circumcised, an issue on which his parents disagreed for religious reasons. Generally, courts will consider the views of children over 12 on issues of religion as well as issues of custody or visitation generally. The Law in Religion and Custody Cases Because the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet decided a case involving religious upbringing and custody, there is no uniform national law. Instead, the law varies from state to state. Most state courts apply one of the following three legal standards when deciding these cases: Actual or substantial harm. The court will restrict a parent's First Amendment or parenting rights only if that parent's religious practices cause actual or substantial harm to the child. Risk of harm. The court may restrict a parent's First Amendment or parenting rights if that parent's religious practices might harm the child in the future. No harm required. The custodial parent's right to influence the children's religious upbringing of her is considered exclusive. If the custodial parent objects to the noncustodial parent's religious activities, that's the end of it: The court will defer to the custodial parent's wishes. The Actual or Substantial Harm Standard Courts applying this standard will restrict a parent's religious activities only if the other parent proves that those activities cause substantial or actual harm to the child. This standard is used in many states. The cases discussed in this section provide examples of how courts following the actual or substantial harm standard may rule in various situations. Keep in mind that these decisions do not have to be

followed by courts in other states or, sometimes, in the same state that the decision came from. Munoz v. Munoz: Exposure to two religions does not cause harm In Munoz v. Munoz, 79 Wash. 2d 810, 489 P.2d 1133 (1971), the state of Washington's highest court ruled that exposing children to two different religions (Mormon and Catholic) is not harmful in and of itself and therefore does not justify restricting a parent's religious activities. Pater v. Pater: Restrictive religious customs are not necessarily harmful In Pater v. Pater, 63 Ohio St. 3d 393, 588 N.E. 2d 794 (1992), Ohio's Supreme Court ruled that religious customs (Jehovah's Witness in this case) that restrict a child's social activities -- even if they separate the child from peers or go against community standards -- are not enough to justify court intervention unless the practices harm the mental or physical health of the child. Kendall v. Kendall: Physical acts and verbal threats justify religious restrictions In Kendall v. Kendall, 426 Mass. 238, 687 N.E.2d 1228 (1997), the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that a father's verbal threats and physical acts toward his children, which were designed to interfere with their Orthodox Jewish religious practices, were enough to warrant restrictions on his First Amendment and parenting rights. (A courtappointed doctor found that the father's actions -- cutting off his son's payes (the curls customarily worn by Orthodox Jewish males) and telling his children that anyone outside the fundamentalist faith was "damned to go to hell" --caused mental and emotional harm to the children. The court barred the father from sharing his religious beliefs, praying, or studying the Bible with his children if those activities would cause the kids to reject their mother or their Jewish identity or cause them emotional distress. The Risk of Harm Standard In a handful of states, courts have used a different legal standard to decide cases where religion and custody collide. In these courts, a parent seeking to curtail the other parent's religious activities need not demonstrate actual or substantial harm to the child, but only that there is a risk that the child might be harmed in the future. The No Harm Required Standard In a few states, courts do not apply the actual or substantial harm standard or the risk of harm standard. Instead, these courts use a simple rule: The parent with sole legal custody has exclusive control over the child's religious education. If a dispute arises over religious upbringing, the court will curtail the noncustodial parent's religious activities and enforce the custodial parent's desires. These courts reason that interfering with the noncustodial parent's religious

activities does not violate First Amendment rights, because the restrictions apply only to the time period in which the parent is with the children. At all other times, the parent is free to practice whatever religion the person chooses. When parents have joint legal custody (which a majority of states now award unless it would harm the child), teachings from both religions may be allowed. Johns v. Johns: Father forced to bring children to church during visitation In Johns v. Johns, 53 Ark. App. 90, 918 S.W. 2d 728 (1996), an Arkansas court deferred to the custodial parent's wishes. In this case, the father complained that the mother, who had legal and physical custody of the children, was preventing him from visiting with his kids. The mother said she was refusing visits because he didn't take the kids to church and Sunday school. The trial court ordered Mr. Johns to bring the kids to church. The father appealed. The appellate court agreed with the trial court, holding that because the mother was the custodial parent, her desire that the kids attend church each week was paramount. Zummo v. Zummo: Joint legal custody equals two religions In Zummo v. Zummo, 394 Pa. Super. 30, 574 A.2d 1130 (1990), the divorcing couple's dispute about the religious upbringing of their children was resolved by ordering the father to take the children to Jewish services (the mother's religion) and also allowing him to bring the children to Catholic services (his religion). The court believed that, because the couple shared joint legal custody, they each had the right to instill religious beliefs in their kids.