Bill On Unilateral Conversion Of Children Withdrawn By Govt Again

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KUALA LUMPUR – For the second time, the Government has withdrawn the controversial Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016 which would have barred the unilateral conversion of children by any one parent.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pix) told parliament this morning, the bill listed as the 10th item for debate in the order paper, has been withdrawn.

The bill was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat last November and was to have been debated at this sitting.

The government’s move to amend the legislation comes following the controversy arising from two recent cases of M. Indira Gandhi and S. Deepa, whose Muslim convert ex-husbands had unilaterally converted their children to Islam.

The bill aimed to address disputes arising from the dissolution of a marriage arising from a conversion by making clear that the couple have to present a petition for divorce in a civil court and not in a Syariah court.

Among the amendments made to the act was the insertion of Section 88A, a new section which makes clear that both parents in a civil marriage must agree to the conversion of a minor into Islam.

Currently, the law is silent on this aspect.

The section also clearly states that the child will remain in the religion practised by the parents at the time the marriage was registered, and may choose his own religion on reaching the age of 18.

“Where a party to a marriage has converted to Islam, the religion of any child of that marriage shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion, 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,” the section states.

The section also allows for a child to remain in the religion of either one of the prior religions of his parents before the conversion to Islam, in the case where either parents professed different religions at the time of marriage. – The Sun