Proposed amendment of Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 need to be fine-tuned.
Other contradictory laws should be amended otherwise the LRA Bill will render problematic and invalid
I have recently scrutinized the proposed draft of the Bill to amend Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) 1976 (LRA) which was slated to affirm precedence enjoyed by civil courts in mediating divorce and child custody cases involving spouses who convert to Islam after marriage. I noted that the proposed draft of the LRA Bill includes 6 amendments of existing sections with an addition of 2 new sections. However, I am concerned on the omission of any proposed amendments to the Bill that would seek to resolve the longstanding issue of unilateral conversion of minors.
After carefully studied the Bill, I conclude that it needs to be fine-tuned not to mention some technical errors, I have had lengthy discussions on the Bill among party colleagues and felt that despite being exhaustive, the Bill fails to address the pressing concern that minor children should not be unilaterally converted, we will engage with the Home Ministry to express our views and recommendations.
It is important that the tabling of LRA Bill is met with similar effort to amend Article 12 (4), 121 (1A), Item 1 List 2 of the 9th Schedule of the Federal Constitution and Section 46 (2) of the Islamic Family Law Act and Section 95 (b) of the Administration of Islamic Law Act. For instance, he pointed out that “ibu atau bapa” in Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution in Bahasa Malaysia version should streamline with its English version of “parent” or “ibubapa” allowing both parent to determine the religion of a person under the age of 18. He also pointed out that Section 46 (2) of the Islamic Family Law Act has jurisdiction to decide on divorce from civil marriages, and Section 95 (b) of the Administration of Islamic Law Act enables single parent to convert the child unilaterally.
I assert that these existing legal provisions contradict with the spirit and objective of the LRA Bill that should be also be addressed. The law reform should be conducted comprehensively and concurrently to eliminate legal confusion or misinterpretation stemmed from technical glitches and contradiction. He added that otherwise the proposed LRA Bill will be problematic and render invalid.
I reiterate that the amendments proposed in the LRA Bill seek to remedy the issue of conversion in marriage and child custody, but it has not achieved the intended objective which is to prevent the conversion of minors that proven to be the most delicate and intricate issue affecting today’s society. I am hopeful that a positive outcome could be reached with a sincere and practical approach to seek a permanent solution to the issue.