Committee moots lawyers for children in shariah custody battles

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KUALA LUMPUR: Children caught in shariah custody battles may be provided legal representatives, if a proposal by the government’s steering committee to improve the shariah legal system is implemented.

“We proposed to have the Islamic family law improved, which may require amendements to some existing legislatures. One of the ways to achieve this, is through child advocation.

“So children whose parents are going through a divorce, will be provided with their own lawyer,” said Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Azizah Mohd Dun, who chaired the committee’s first meeting today.

Azizah said the proposal was unanimously agreed by the committee members today, who among others included representatives from the Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim), the Attorney-General’s Chambers, shariah court judges, shariah lawyers and politicians.

“This is so that their rights and their welfare will be looked after,” she added.

Azizah said children’s interests were often neglected when couples divorce.

“We will defend the interests of these children.”

She said the committee had reached a consensus on three matters, which were the uniformity of shariah laws, Muslim inheritance law and the strengthening of shariah courts.

“We will look into fast tracking the shariah court’s processes, especially for divorce cases.,” she said.

Last year, Azizah revealed that there were over 171,000 divorce cases among Muslim couples between 2014 and July 2016.

She said the committee also proposed that the shariah courts’ hierarchy follow that of civil courts.

The shariah court system currently consists of the Shariah Lower Court, Shariah High Court, and Shariah Appeals Court, while the civil court system has two additional levels, the Sessions Court and the Magistrates Court.

Azizah said the committee would seek an audience with Malay rulers on the proposal, as the shariah system comes under their jurisdiction.