It will grant equal di­vorce fil­ing rights to non-Mus­lim, Mus­lim spouses

New Straits Times - - News - KUALA LUMPUR

THE amended ver­sion of the Law Re­form (Mar­riage and Di­vorce) (Amend­ment) Bill 2016 will grant equal rights to file for di­vorce in a civil court to Mus­lim con­verts whose civil mar­riages have not been dis­solved.

The bill is ex­pected to be tabled by Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Datuk Seri Aza­lina Oth­man Said for its first read­ing in Par­lia­ment to­day.

The bill is meant to re­solve prob­lems that arise when one of the spouses in a mar­riage con­verts to Is­lam.

At present, a Mus­lim con­vert is un­able to file for di­vorce (from a non-Mus­lim spouse) un­der the Is­lamic Fam­ily Law Act or En­act­ment.

This is be­cause if the is­sue in­volves a Mus­lim and a non-Mus­lim, the ju­ris­dic­tion does not lie with the syariah court.

As such, the Mus­lim spouse is un­able to file for di­vorce in a civil court and is de­prived of an­cil­lary re­lief, such as main­te­nance and cus­tody of chil­dren.

The spouse will need to go to the syariah court in­stead, which can make its own order per­tain­ing to di­vorce and other an­cil­lary re­lief.

The bill was sup­posed to be tabled yes­ter­day, but was de­ferred at the eleventh hour.

The amended bill will be tabled with an ex­clu­sion of Clause 88A, which states that the re­li­gion of the child should re­main the same de­spite the con­ver­sion of ei­ther par­ent.

Aza­lina said the fresh amend­ments would be in line with the courts’ de­ci­sions on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 12(4) of the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion, which states that the re­li­gion of a per­son un­der the age of 18 shall be de­cided by the par­ent or guardian.

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 for a di­vorce pe­ti­tion.

Sec­tion 51A will en­able the next of kin of a Mus­lim con­vert to be en­ti­tled to mat­ri­mo­nial as­sets in the event that the con­verted per­son passed away be­fore the dis­so­lu­tion of the civil mar­riage.

Un­der Clause 3 of the bill, moth­ers and adopted moth­ers will have equal rights as the fa­thers in con­sent­ing to a mar­riage for a per­son un­der 21. The bill was tabled by the gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber last year to put in place le­gal safeguards against uni­lat­eral con­ver­sions of mi­nors to Is­lam.

Datuk Seri Aza­lina Oth­man Said

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