The bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriaged and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) must be made available for all relevant parties to view and to give feedback, the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) said.
The bill to be tabled in the October Parliamentary sitting was announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak last Thursday.
In a statement released today, AWL President Goh Siu Lin said Najib’s announcement on the proposed announcements were welcome but there should be full disclosure as to the contents of the bill.
“It has been reported in the media that the proposed amendments to the LRA are intended to resolve the conflict of jurisdiction in divorce and child custody cases that arises when there is a unilateral conversion by one spouse of a civil marriage.
“However, AWL is concerned about the secrecy behind the Bill, said to be ready for tabling and approval in the October 2016 sitting of Parliament,” Goh said.
She called for the government to hold discussions with the relevant groups who have been vocal on the issue of unilateral religious conversions, especially since it affects so many lives, including those of the children in a family where one spouse converts to Islam.
“Amendments to laws that are to impact the family ought to be done in a consultative manner, by including in discussions, the relevant groups who have been in active discussion with the government on these same issues.
“The government must provide a copy of the proposed bill to the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) who have consistently engaged with the government on various aspects of law reform to the LRA,” Goh said.
According to Goh, the proposed bill is still unclear on the “thorny issue” of unilateral conversion, and what legislative and other policy measures will be initiated when one spouse converts to Islam and does the same for his or her child(or children) as well.
“Given that these amendments have serious ramifications, AWL calls on the government to provide full disclosure on the proposed amendments to be tabled and for the participation of JAG in the consultation process prior to the tabling of said amendments,” Goh said.