An interfaith group wants the bill to amend the Law Reform (Marriaged and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) to be more specific in addressing disputes involving children, when it comes to cases involving a spouse in a civil marriage who converts to Islam.
Such amendments must especially take care of disputes when a child, or children, in such a case as mentioned above, is converted without the consent of both parents, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said, Malay Mail Online reported today.
According to the group, in his announcement on the legal reforms last week, Prime Minister Najib Razak did not specifically mention that the bill to be tabled in Parliament in October will deal with the issue of unilateral conversion of minors.
“Thus, the MCCBCHST would like to enquire whether the Cabinet will abide by its April 2009 decision that both parents must consent before a child of a civil marriage could be converted to another religion,” MCCBCHST said in a statement today.
The group said it welcomed Najib’s annoucement on the legal reforms with caution because of the lack of specifics on one of the most contentious issues between religious groups in recent years.
Two prominent cases of Hindu mothers whose children were unilaterally converted into Islam by their Muslim convert ex-husbands, has struck a chord in society with the civil courts ruling in favour of the wives in ruling the conversion was not valid, but the Shariah court ruling for the husbands.
M Indira Gandhi, in Perak, and S Deepa (Negri Sembilan) had been respectively involved in long drawn-out court battles regarding the custody and unilateral conversion of their children.
“This is the crux of the problem. Therefore the PM must assure that the proposed amendments will address this issue and a single parent cannot convert a minor without the consent of the other spouse,” the MCCBCHST statement added.
Joining a call by the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) earlier today, the interfaith group also said the contents of the Bill containing the proposed law amendments must be disclosed to all relevant parties, and also the public for greater clarity and feedback.
Last Thursday, Najib Razak announced that the government will amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 with immediate effect.
“The amendment of this Act will provide an opportunity for both partners to resolve the issue of civil marriage in the civil courts, thus enabling them to continue their life like other couples to marry non-Muslims.
“At the same time, the clash between the civil court and shariah court, arising from conversion to Islam by one of the spouses, may be removed and the legislative gaps and duplication of the provisions within the existing law may be resolved,” Najib said in a statement.