PROHAM supports this decision as it is in line with Article 14 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 14(1) provides that the State shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Article 14(2) provides that States shall respect the rights and duties of the parents 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.
Furthermore, it is not only the child’s rights that have been secured but also the equal right as a parent to decide on matters relating to his or her children’s upbringing. Under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961, Section 5(1) clearly provides that in relation to the upbringing of an infant, a mother shall have the same rights and authority as the law allows to a father, and the rights and authority of mother and father shall be equal. Hence, a mother cannot lose her rights just because the father chooses to convert to Islam. Her rights cannot be rolled back bearing the principle of non-regression.
As Malaysia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, Malaysia must ensure equal parental rights are always upheld and that the principle of the best interests of the child always prevails.
PROHAM applauds the Federal Court in coming to a decision which ensures such rights are upheld. We urge all parties to respect this decision and work towards a united Malaysia where all are equal before the law irrespective of religion, class and gender.
Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, Chairman
Ivy Josiah, Secretary General ( HP: 012 371 7070)
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
30 January 2018