KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Wanita MCA urged today the Attorney-General’s Chambers and government and Opposition lawmakers to table a Bill to amend Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution to clearly state that a minor’s faith should be decided by both parents.
Wanita MCA chair Datuk Heng Seai Kie pointed out that up till 2002, Article 12(4) clearly spelled out that the faith of a minor below 18 was to be determined by ‘ibubapa’ [parents].
“It is important to investigate how ‘ibubapa’ was mysteriously switched to ‘ibu atau bapa’ [mother or father] without going through Parliamentary proceedings, and whether this subterfuge alteration is legal and binding.
“As this mysterious printing modification in the Perlembagaan Persekutuan (Federal Constitution) was not debated in Parliament, much less officially gazetted, can its interpretation by the judiciary to mean singular be thus construed as correct and not-flawed?” she questioned.
The Wanita MCA head expressed her disappointment at the withdrawal of Section 88A from the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 that had prohibited the unilateral conversion of a child to Islam, pointing out that the clause was the key reason to amend the 1976 Act.
“Without Section 88A, the Bill does not serve its main purpose nor solve acrimonious marital disputes when a Muallaf takes advantage of the state religious departments, Shariah Court and the police to either convert their minor sons and daughters without informing the non-converting spouse, or use physical force to abduct an underage child although the civil court had awarded custody to the non-convert spouse,” she said.
The government tabled the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that contained the same amendments to the 1976 Act as per the 2016 Bill, except for the inclusion of Section 88A.
The amendments empower a Muslim convert in a civil marriage to file for divorce after the religious conversion, besides entitling to matrimonial assets the surviving spouse, children and parents of the Muslim convert who dies before the divorce.