ALOR STAR: The cross-border marriage amnesty programme proposed by the Kedah government should be seen as a move to protect the welfare of children born to couples who married outside the country and did not register their union.
However, the initiative, expected to begin next month, is not a ticket for couples to skip legal procedures here and get married without getting the consent from their families.
The Malaysia Sharie Lawyers Association said the programme could protect the welfare of children born from these marriages, who had been left “stateless” as a result.
Its president, Musa Awang, said the programme must be conducted carefully to prevent it from being used by couples to get married outside the country without getting consent from local religious authorities.
“It is a good initiative because due to the geographical factor, many people in Kedah get married in Thailand,” he told the New Straits Times Press.
He said the programme would affect childbirth registration, status and school enrollment.
On whether it should be expanded to other states, Musa said the matter needed to be evaluated to avoid it from becoming a tool in promoting marriage without consent.
He said the law regarding polygamy and the consensus for marriages were made to protect Muslims.
Thus, he said, if it such a union were made “too easy”, it could encourage couples to get married without going through the right procedures.
NSTP had yesterday reported that the Kedah government was embarking on a cross-border marriage amnesty programme to help 10,000 women who are not officially recognised as wives, having tied the knot across the Malaysian-Thai border.
It is open to couples who married abroad last year and earlier, with priority given to those who have children from such a union.
Ahmad Fuad Ashari, a coordinator for Islamic non-governmental organisation Halaqah Ilmi, said the programme could be a solution for couples who found it difficult to register their marriage in Malaysia and to obtain birth certificates for their children.
“We believe it could reduce the negative public perception of such couples, even though their marriage is considered legal based on Islamic law. It becomes a serious matter when the husband dies as it involves inheritance and nafkah (alimony). It could result with the family being left without any (financial) protection.”
State Religious, Tourism and Heritage, and Public Works Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid said the programme was not to encourage people to get married without consent.
He said it was to help those who have been married for a long time but failed to register it, as well as to protect the welfare and the future of their families.
“We have met the authorities, including the state Islamic Affairs Department, state Syariah Judiciary Department, state legal advisor and the state National Registration Department to discuss the matter.
“We have briefed district Islamic officers to make sure that their staff understand the process.
“This programme has received the green light from Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who want to ensure that the future of married couples in the state is protected.” --Additional reporting by Suzalina Halid