ALOR STAR: There could be light at the end of the tunnel for some 10,000 women in the state who are not officially recognised as wives, with the state government embarking on an amnesty programme for couples who tied the knot across the Malaysian-Thai border.
This initiative would resolve the problem faced by children of these couples who failed to register their marriage abroad.
It is estimated that there are some 30,000 children born to Malaysian parents or couples in Kedah who have been made stateless due to the failure of their parents to register their marriage with Islamic religious offices.
These kids are denied privileges enjoyed by Malaysian children, such as public schooling and subsidised medical treatment at public hospitals.
Concerned over the future of the women and their stateless children, the Kedah government is initiating a Cross-Border Marriage Amnesty Programme to compel these couples to register their marriage, starting next month until September.
The programme is open to couples who married abroad in 2017 and earlier, with priority given to those who have children from the union.
Its coordinator, Mohd Nor Azim Abd Razak, said the initiative enabled the women and their children to secure their legitimate rights in a family institution.
He said Kedah would be the third state to come up with the initiative after Pahang and Selangor.
Nor Azim said the state government had received appeal cases from couples who were married for the first time, or those who entered into a polygamous marriage but could not register their marriage with local authorities or obtain birth certificates for their children.
“The issue becomes complicated when the couple divorces, or one of them passes away, with the other having trouble applying for a Malaysian birth certificate for their children.
“This programme is the brainchild of state Religious, Tourism, Heritage and Public Works Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Rawi Abd Hamid, who was concerned over the plight and the future of the children and women, who are made victims of cross-border marriage complications.
“The programme would prevent the children from being labelled as illegitimate children.”
Nor Azim said the authorities would gauge the response and study possible issues that needed to be addressed.
“There will be conditions involved. Those interested in registering their marriage will have to visit the Kedah Islamic Religious Affairs Department or the nearest Islamic Religious district office.
“The couple, or one of them, must produce legitimate documents such as identity cards of the couple, marriage registration form from the country they married in, endorsement letter from Malaysian consulate or embassy at the respective country, as well as valid travel documents.”
Those seeking more details on the programme may contact 019-5259486.
*Reports by: PETAH WAZZAN ISKANDAR , MUHAAMAD HAFIS NAWAWI , SUZALINA HALID