Tuesday, November 22, 2016

malaysiakini ~ MP wants Parliament to fast-track ‘religious conversion of minors’ bill






The bill to amend laws relating to the unilateral religious conversion of minors should be debated at the current sitting of the Dewan Rakyat, said Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran.


He said although the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016 was tabled yesterday, it would only be debated at the March session of Parliament next year.


"From my initial reading of this bill, I feel relevant controversial issues have been addressed. I am in the process of meeting a team of lawyers who are involved in this issue to discuss the bill in detail and its effects in full.




"I am hoping the law minister can 'fast track' this bill to assist the many who are caught in this 'ugly' situation," said Kulasegaran in a statement.


The DAP lawmaker is among the lawyers representing M Indira Gandhi who has been locked in a protracted legal battle with her former husband who converted their three underage children to Islam without her knowledge.


He said many Malaysians, especially children, are suffering in silence because of unilateral conversion and the law must be amended soon to protect them.


He also lauded Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman Said for tabling the bill and the cabinet committees which had deliberated on this issue.


The bill seeks to include a new provision that stipulates that the religion of any child of a civil marriage shall maintain the same religion, even if one spouse converts to Islam, with a caveat.


"...except where both parties to the marriage agree to a conversion of the child to Islam, subject always to the wishes of the child where he or she has attained the age of eighteen years," reads the new Section 88A(1).


According to the explanatory notes of the bill, the amendments will allow a spouse who had converted to Islam the right to file for divorce in a civil court.


The bill will seek to amend Section 51(1) of the act, removing a clause that reads: "Where one party to a marriage has converted to Islam, the other party who has not so converted may petition for divorce."


A new Section 51(1) and (2) will allow "either party" or "both parties" to file a divorce petition. The words of Section 3 will also be amended to achieve similar effect.

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