KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — The legal clause that prevents unilateral child conversion was dropped from the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 (LRA) because it would have contravened the federal constitution, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said tonight.
The Star Online quoted the Tourism and Culture Minister as saying that in order for Section 88A to be included in the Bill, the constitution would have to be amended.
“The reason why we dropped the clause is because we would be forced to amend the definition of ‘parent’, which is clearly stated in the Constitution as ‘either one’.
“There have been four precedent cases whereby the court’s decision was based on the Constitution’s definition of ‘parent’,” he was quoted saying.
The former law minister said that a two-thirds majority approval in Parliament would be needed before the government could amend the constitution.
“But the nine clauses in the Bill are good for non-Muslim family matters,” he added.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam also weighed in the issue, saying that the reintroduction of the amendment of the Bill without Section 88A, will allow the public to get the benefit of the other amendments while efforts to “relentlessly” address the issues of unilateral conversion continued.
“I hope we as a nation can collectively act to prevent such incidence.
“Once these amendments are done, the civil courts will have a stronger say in addressing some of these concerns. We hope they will help alleviate some of the problems,” he said in a statement.
Except for the inclusion of Section 88A, amendments proposed to the Bill remain the same as when it first came to light in November, last year.
Among others, the amendments state that if a person who has converted to Islam dies before the non-Muslim civil marriage is dissolved, the matrimonial assets shall be distributed by court “to interested parties.”
The distribution will take into account contributions made by interested parties in money, property or works towards the acquisition of the matrimonial asset.
The proposed amendments shall also be used retrospectively for any cases still pending in courts under this Act.
The problems with unilateral child conversions persist despite a Cabinet ruling prohibiting the practice, due to the lack of legal weight behind the decision.
Many groups have since expressed anger over the exclusion of Section 88A, which they say would resolve the crux of the problem involving unilateral conversion cases in the country.