Amend laws to ban unilateral conversion, Malaysian Bar tells Putrajaya after landmark ruling
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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — The Malaysian Bar urged Putrajaya today to amend all relevant laws in the next Parliamentary session in March to ban unilateral child conversion, following Federal Court’s landmark ruling on the matter this week.
The Bar also said it is ready to assist the federal government to implement such a move.
“The Malaysian Bar recalls that the Government had sought to introduce appropriate amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to provide that both parents must consent to any change of religion of a minor child.
“The Malaysian Bar urges the Government to take immediate steps to amend all relevant legislation and enactment at the next Parliamentary session scheduled in March 2018, to give effect to the decision of the Federal Court,” its president George Varughese said in a statement.
The Bar said unilateral conversion of minors not only creates social injustice, but violates the rights of the non-converting parent, and contradicts the Federal Constitution.
“Accordingly, such unilateral conversion of minor children is unconstitutional, illegal and void. Any legislation inconsistent with this principle is thus unconstitutional and must be amended,” George said.
In a watershed ruling yesterday, the Federal Court annulled the conversion of Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi’s three children that was done by her Muslim convert ex-husband without her consent.
The apex court had also ruled that the consent of both parents is needed to convert a minor, saying that the Federal Constitution clearly stated so.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that the government will consider re-introducing a clause to ban unilateral child conversion to Islam, referring to Section 88A of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act that the government had withdrawn before passing amendments to the law last August.
Ever since the ruling on Monday, several Muslim groups and Islamist party PAS had vowed to oppose any attempts by Putrajaya to amend the law to ban unilateral child conversion.