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Shahrizat backs national child support agency

KUALA LUMPUR, 5 Dec 2008: Wanita Umno deputy Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil supports the formation of a national child support agency.

“That will be one of our top priorities,” Shahrizat said, speaking as chairperson of the Muslim Women Protection and Empowerment Secretariat (Senada) during a press conference, yesterday.

Shahrizat puts formation of national child
support agency as top priority

“[Senada] will prepare a paper for the prime minister and push this,” Shahrizat added. “I hope it will be a reality.”

Shahrizat, who is the special adviser to the prime minister for women and social development, delivered the opening address to a national symposium on the formation of a fair, stable and happy family.

The national symposium is jointly organised by Sisters in Islam (SIS), Gabungan Hak Wanita Islam (Gahwi) and Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

One of the functions of a child support agency will be to collect and transfer nafkah (alimony) from non-resident parents to parents with care.

“This will mean that child support becomes an administrative, not adversarial, matter,” SIS executive director Zainah Anwar told The Nut Graph. “Mothers will not have to fight over [the payment of nafkah] in court.”

“It will be the responsibility of the agency to make sure that the child is maintained, and claim the cost from the father,” Zainah explained. “It will be the government’s job to go after the errant father.”

This would ensure that a child’s welfare would always be cared for.

Zainah said that such an agency was necessary, because the judicial process is draining to single parents, typically mothers who have to work to support their children. Further, even if the judges initially enforce nafkah, non-resident parents may stop payment after a few months, and parents with care would have to return to court.

As an example, Zainah pointed to Australia’s Child Support Agency, which when established saw the compliance rate by alimony-paying non-resident parents rise from 30% to 80%.

The national child support agency was a one of 24 suggestions decided on by delegates at the conclusion of the symposium.

Other suggestions included the homogenisation of the Syariah court system throughout Malaysia; a re-examination of the current body of Islamic Family Law to focus on fairness and equality in Muslim families; and the appointment of women judges in Syariah courts. These suggestions would be put forward to the government for implementation.TNG

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