KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Many Malaysian Muslim men who divorce their wives are ignoring their responsibility to provide for their children because the Islamic legal system fails to punish them, a women's rights group says.

Sisters In Islam said women who were unable to get their ex-husbands to pay child support comprised nearly one-third of the 214 complaints it received in the first three months of 2007, adding that those cases constitute "only a small fraction of what is happening."

"Mothers are forced to beg from their children's fathers so that their children have sufficient food, clothing, shelter and education," the group said in an April 21 statement.

Sisters In Islam said Malaysia's Muslim women are suffering a lack of legal protection in a wide range of issues such as polygamy, where men who take multiple wives sometimes neglect the economic and emotional welfare of their families. Some Muslims interpret Islamic teaching as allowing a man to marry up to four women.

The Islamic Shariah Court is the legal authority in disputes involving families, morality and religion for Muslims, who form nearly 60 percent of the 26 million people in Malaysia, which has Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities.