| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 23 Sept 2017 | Asia Samachar |
Conversion is no shortcut to a divorce. And if you are converting to Islam in Malaysia, be aware of the consequences.
“They should go in with their eyes open…They should take into consideration the long term implications that can arise as far as property is concerned, maintenance in the future, custody of the children,” a lawyer told a recent Kuala Lumpur seminar.
“All these matters do play a role and they need to be taken into consideration before going through a conversion.”
This was one of issues that cropped up in the half-day ‘Women’s Legal Rights in Malaysia’ seminar organised by the Sikh Welfare Society Malaysia (SWSM) in Kuala Lumpur on 16 Sept 2017.
Ravinder Singh, who had served as chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar, had also touched on issues concerning spouse abuse, marital rape and the rights of spouses married to Malaysians. It was attended by about 100 participants, mostly women.
Jagjit Singh, a former judge and Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) commissioner, who was originally scheduled to speak, could not make it due to a last minute work travel commitment.
When speaking to Asia Samachar after the event, Ravinder said: “When there is a marriage between a Sikh and a non-Sikh, especially one in this [Malaysia] country where a certain religion which requires conversion by law, under those circumstances, young adults must be aware of the risks.”
In Malaysia, conversion-related cases have been widely debated. In a number of conversion cases that ended up in the court of law, one of the spouses, usually the husband, would convert to Islam and attempt to unilaterally change the status of their children’s faith as well.
Last year, the Malaysian government had given an assurance that the it will amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to resolve the issue.
When the final amendments were brought to the Parliament in August 2017, among the amendments was Section 51, which allows either spouse in cases where one party has converted to Islam, to have the marriage dissolved in civil courts.
However, the lawmakers had dropped one key demand of various parties, including the interfaith groups. At the last minute, the Government decided to omit Section 88A intended to address issues concerning unilateral conversion of children.
In September 2016, for example, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) then welcomed a minister’s statement that the proposed reforms will essentially see the cabinet abiding by its April 2009 decision which requires both parents’ consent before a child of a civil marriage can be converted to another religion.
The seminar was sponsored by the Malaysian Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and supported by the Malaysian Sikh Union (MSU). Asia Samachar was the event media partner.
Former judge to speak on Sikh women’s legal rights (Asia Samachar, 13 Sept 2017)
Why do women need to be empowered? (Asia Samachar, 1 Aug 2017)
Malaysian interfaith council welcomes minister’s statement that no unilateral conversion allowed (Asia Samachar, 3 Sept 2016)
Malaysia promises to amend marriage law to address conversion issues (Asia Samachar, 27 Aug 2016)