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Stop adding hurdles for Deepa

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

Press Statement, 24 June 2014

Photo courtesy of Goh Siu Lin

What does a mother have to do in this country, just to be with her children? For Deepa, and other women like her, a lot. And today, the government wants her to do more.

The system has already allowed injustice to occur to Deepa. Her then-husband was allowed to convert their two children into Islam without Deepa’s knowledge. The Syariah court deemed it appropriate to award custody to the then-husband, even though it had no jurisdiction over Deepa, and did not even hear her side of the story.

The fact that the husband had allegedly been abusive – Deepa lodged more than 25 police reports – didn’t seem to matter.

Deepa put her faith in the courts to seek justice. The civil courts – the system in which Deepa and her ex-husband were married – heard both sides of the story, and awarded custody to Deepa with visitation rights for the ex-husband.

Two days after she was awarded custody, the ex-husband abducted the six-year old son. He also applied for the custody order to be stayed, but was rejected by both the High Court and Court of Appeal. Both these courts maintained that Deepa had rightful custody. Despite all this, the police refused to enforce the custody order, citing the conflicting Syariah court custody order.

Still Deepa has persisted, and obtained a Recovery Order from the High Court, which directs the police to retrieve the son.

But today, instead of complying with this Recovery Order, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Attorney General (AG) have applied to intervene in the court proceedings, and to suspend the Recovery Order.

Is it too much to ask that a mother be given equal say as a father in matters concerning their children? Or that issues pertaining to a marriage solemnised according to one set of laws be resolved according to the same laws? Shouldn’t the children have a say in their own future?

Once again, WAO calls for the High Court orders to be enforced so that Deepa can be with her son, and for family laws to be amended to disallow unilateral conversions as per the 2009 Cabinet decision.

The system should help women like Deepa obtain justice, not add more hurdles.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) provides provides social work and counseling services for domestic violence survivors and advocates for women’s human rights. Together, we change lives. Call our counselling line at 03 7956 3488 if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, or SMS TINA at 018 988 8058 for a friend to talk to.

For more information: Yu Ren Chung, Advocacy Officer,, 010 225 7971.

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