KUALA LUMPUR: The tabling of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016 on the unilateral conversion of children by any one parent, has been deferred.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said informed the Dewan Rakyat of the withdrawal of the Bill early this morning, prior to the Minister's Question and Answer (MQT) session.
The Bill was previously listed as the 10th item in the Parliamentary order paper.
It was tabled by the government in November last year to put in place legal safeguards against unilateral conversions of minors to Islam.
It is also to help resolve interfaith custody conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim parents.
The explanatory notes of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2016 mentions amendments in marriage and divorce, and inheritance.
The bill will include a new provision for the religion of the child.
Section 88A (1) reads that if a parent converts to Islam, the religion of their children shall remain the same, unless both parents have agreed to the conversion of the children to Islam.
Their children are also free to choose their religion once they reach 18 years of age.
Section 51 (1) of the Act will be amended by removing the clause: “Where one party to a marriage has converted to Islam, the other party who has not so converted may petition for divorce”.
The amendment will see a new section, Section 51 (1) and (2), which allow "either party" or "both parties" to file a divorce petition.
The words of Section 3 will also be amended for the same purpose.
As for inheritance, a new provision, Section 51A, will be introduced to allow the next-of-kin of the person who converts to Islam, who dies before the marriage is dissolved under the civil law, to have the right to inherit the matrimonial assets.
In May last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave his assurance that the government will look into resolving conflicts between Muslim converts and their spouses over the religion of their children.
Among such cases is that of Hindu mother M. Indira Ghandi, who has been locked in a seven-year court tussle over the custody of her youngest child, Prasana Diksa, with her ex-husband, Muslim convert Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah.