M Indira Gandhi, who fought to have her children’s unilateral conversion set aside, has been nominated as Malaysia’s candidate for the US Department of State’s International Women of Courage award.
US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir will be holding a reception in Indira’s honour on Wednesday.
The reception is also being held in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2018 and Women’s History Month, which is celebrated in the US in March.
In January, the Federal Court set aside the unilateral conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam after ruling that any conversion of non-Muslim children must get the consent of both parents.
In what has been described as a landmark ruling, the court also decreed that only the civil court would decide on such matters.
It also ruled that the word “parent” in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution should be read as “parents”.
That article says that the religion of a person under the age of 18 shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
The court’s ruling put an end to the interfaith custody battle that followed after Indira’s ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah converted their three children without her knowledge in 2009.
Muhammad Riduan, formerly known as K Pathmanathan, converted to Islam on March 11, 2009.
He left the house three weeks later with their youngest child, Prasana Diksa.
On April 2, 2009, he converted all three children to Islam without their knowledge and presence, and without Indira’s consent. He went to the Shariah Court several days later to obtain custody over them.
Indira’s eldest daughter, Tevi Darsiny, is now an adult at 21 while her brother, Karan Dinish, will turn 20 this year. They are old enough to decide on their own faiths.
However, Prasana, who turns 10 this year, is still missing.
The International Women of Courage Award is presented annually by the US Department of State to women around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women’s rights.
It was established in 2007 by the then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Each US embassy has the right to recommend one woman as a candidate.
Malaysian transgender rights activist Nisha Ayub was an award recipient in 2016.