‘Islamic law recognises babies born out of wedlock as orphans’

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THE number of orphans registered with the Pengiran Muda Mahkota Al-Muhtadee Billah Orphans Fund (DANA) increased by 130 per cent between 2014 and 2015, a Legislative Council (LegCo) member said yesterday.

Yang Berhormat Datin Paduka Hjh Salbiah Hj Sulaiman questioned the Ministry of Religious Affairs over the sharp increase, asking if children born out of wedlock were classified as “orphans” under Islamic law.

“Although the mortality rate among men is higher than women… this did not indicate any logical explanation for the drastic upsurge in the number of orphans,” she said, pointing out that the number increased from 1,756 to 4,044 in just one year.

“Every child is born in a state of fitrah, clean without any sin,” said YB Datin Hjh Salbiah.

“This includes a baby born out of wedlock, for whom good treatment is obligatory… I wish to get some clarification as to why, in Brunei, an illegitimate child is regarded as an orphan.”

Religious Affairs Minister Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman explained that according to syariah law, orphans are defined in a number of ways – children whose father has died, children born out of wedlock or abandoned, or children disowned through an oath given by a husband and wife denying parentage.

“In Brunei, if there are no laws or policies on a specific matter, we refer to Islamic law, which recognises them as orphans,” he said.

Belait representative YB Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad also voiced concerns on the status of illegitimate children, saying the stigma could have long-term emotional impact. In response, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Halbi Hj Md Yussof said the Community Development Department provides counseling and other programmes to support such children, in collaboration with other government agencies.

“The Community Development Department focuses more on preventive programmes so that the (frequency of) cases can be contained,” he said.

“We need to brainstorm and implement the appropriate programmes to focus on how people can (play their role in) reducing the number of children born out of wedlock through the National Council on Social Issues and Action Team on Child Protection.”

The Brunei Times