Muhyiddin: No need to amend marriage law to deal with unilateral conversion of minors

KUALA LUMPUR: There are no plans to reintroduce Clause 88A to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act (LRA) to deal with the unilateral conversion of minors, says Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said this was because the Federal Court had decided against several unilateral conversions last year.

"It is the courts as the judicial body which has the freedom to interpret a particular legal provision, in which case the Federal Court's decision will bind the decision of the lower courts.

"In light of this, there are no plans to reintroduce Clause 88A," he said when answering a question by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said during Minister's Question Time in Parliament on Thursday (April 4).

He said the decision to drop the proposed clause when amending the LRA in 2016 came after close scrutiny by the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC).

He said the AGC found that the proposed provision would go against Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution that allowed for the unilateral conversion of a child below 18 by a mother, father or guardian.

However, Muhyiddin said the Federal Court had decided against five cases involving unilateral conversion of children below 18 years old.

On Nov 21, 2016, Parliament tabled a Bill to amend the LRA with the insertion of Clause 88A, but withdrew it on Aug 7, 2017 after strong objections.

Parliament passed the Bill on Aug 10, 2017 without the clause.

Among the amendments to the LRA was Section 51, which allows either spouse in cases where one party has converted to Islam, to have the marriage dissolved in civil courts.

The amendments also dealt with the issue of alimony, child custody and property division in the event where a spouse had converted to Islam.

Clause 88A states that the religion of the child "shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion" and that the child can, after turning 18 and with the consent of both parents, convert to Islam.