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Marriage and divorce bill unfair to Muslims, says think tank

Centhra opposes amendments to Law Reform Act, saying they are discriminatory.

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PETALING JAYA: A think tank has criticised proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, saying they infringe on the liberty of Muslims, particularly the newly converted.

Giving an example of such infringement, Azril Mohd Amin, chief executive officer of the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), pointed to the requirement for consent of both parents for conversion of a child to Islam.

“This is discriminatory against Muslims as conversion to other religions requires no such joint consent,” he said.

He added that the requirement for joint consent would violate the Federal Constitution, which states that the religion of a child below the age of 18 shall be decided by his parent (either the mother or father) or guardian.

“This applies, regardless of the religion the child is converted to,” Azril said.

“Unilateral conversions, therefore, are not unconstitutional and the decision of the High Court in Indira Gandhi’s case is an error,” Azril said, referring to the interfaith custody battle between a Hindu mother and her Muslim ex-husband and an Ipoh High Court judgement in 2013.

He also said custody by a non-Muslim parent was possible even after a child had converted to Islam.

He cited the case of R Subashini, in which the court granted her custody of her Muslim children although she was a non-Muslim. She eventually converted to Islam.

The bill to amend the 1976 Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act was tabled in parliament last November. It has yet to be debated on. It seeks to ban unilateral child conversions and to make clear that matters of civil marriage will be handled in civil courts.

Azril also complained that the bill favoured non-Muslims when it came to the division of property in divorce cases.

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