PETALING JAYA: The MCA has questioned the government’s refusal to have a legal clause that prevents unilateral conversions of minors.
“Malaysia must legislate such provisions clearly in writing via amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act so that we do not have to rely on interpretations by the judiciary which can go either way,” said MCA secretary-general Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun.
Not doing this will mean that legislative protection for children are not etched in stone, she said.
By not inserting Clause 88A in the Act will also deprive non-converting spouses of their constitutional rights, she said in a statement yesterday.
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.
Last week, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told Parliament that there were no plans to reintroduce Clause 88A to amend the LRA to deal with the unilateral conversion of minors.
(In 2016, a Bill to amend the LRA was tabled, which included the insertion of Clause 88A. But this was withdrawn on Aug 7, 2017 after objection by various parties.)
Referring to the omission of the clause, Chew said: “The mandate given to Pakatan Harapan, and the protection sought by non-Muslims has come to a crushing halt with this abandonment.”
On Muhyiddin’s explanation that the move not to reinsert Clause 88A was because the Federal Court had decided against several unilateral conversions last year, Chew pointed out to a Federal Court judgment in January 2018 that quashed the unilateral conversion of Indira Gandhi’s three minor children.