KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — The establishment of the Syariah Legal Aid Centre (BAGUS), which aims to ensure that Muslims in the country, especially the B40 group, including single mothers, are given access to seek justice, especially in the Syariah Court, is timely.
Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) empowering women described the establishment of this centre as the first step to help those involved understand their rights and subsequently get proper protection.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) Capacity Building director Nazreen Nizam said the setting up of the centre could protect the welfare of single mothers and their children.
“As we all know, if a wife wants to apply for alimony or child alimony, they need to go to court to file a claim and the cost for a lawyer is not cheap.
“With the setting up of a Legal Centre that can help them, more wives and children will receive the justice they deserve,” she told Bernama.
Sisters in Islam Advocacy, Legal Service and Research manager Adam Idris said the implementation mechanism of BAGUS needs to be detailed as there are other agencies that have a similar scope of duties, namely the Legal Aid Department for legal aid in syariah cases.
“The Syariah Legal Aid Centre must have a clear charter on its establishment and be operated under the federal government so that there will be no overlap in terms of the jurisdiction with other agencies.
“The centre needs to constantly consult with stakeholders such as women’s civil society organisations (CSOs), legal experts, and lawyers,” he said, adding that the centre also needs to release statistics and case analysis for monitoring purposes.
Nur Iman Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Women and Single Mothers Association (WITUS) president Sheila Tukimin said the establishment of BAGUS could provide relief to single mothers to ensure their fate and that of their children were protected.
However, she said the centre’s work scope needed to be refined and with an allocation of RM5 million to run the legal aid centre, the authorities needed to engage with the individuals concerned, especially single mothers who were being victimised to address their problems.
On the government’s proposal for Syariah Court judges to deliver divorce and alimony decisions simultaneously, Sheila said this could help resolve alimony issues that had been plaguing single mothers and their children.
“The problem has been around for too long and many women have chosen not to file for divorce because court process will take a long time,” she said.
When announcing the establishment of BAGUS on Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the centre will provide two basic services, namely free legal advice to the Muslim community who wished to seek legal advice on the claims process and procedures in the Syariah Court.
In addition, the centre provides free legal aid services for those making claims at minimum cost, which will be funded by the government.