Amend law to stop unilateral conversion of children

By Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph

The DAP wants the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 amended to provide for a civil marriage to be dissolved first upon conversion of one spouse to Islam.

This is the only solution against unilateral conversions by one spouse of his or her children to Islam, said DAP Sungkai assemblyperson A Sivanesan.

Sivanesan, a lawyer, proposed the amendment today in the light of another case of conversion of children to Islam, without one parent's consent, in a marriage where one spouse had embraced Islam.

Sivanesan was speaking about the recent case of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi, 34, whose three children have been converted by her 40-year-old husband, known by his Muslim convert name of Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah.

The children, Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinish, 11, and Prasana Diksa, 1, were converted by their father who used their birth certificates, without the children themselves even being present.

Sivanesan said it was too complex to touch on Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution which prohibits the civil courts from having any jurisdiction over matters that fall under syariah law.

"We don't want to intrude into Article 121(1A). But at least there should be some amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act to say that before one party converts, and before the religious authorities accept the conversion, they should ensure that the marriage is dissolved under civil law.

"The couple was married under civil law. It should be dissolved accordingly before the religious authorities can accept the application to convert the children.

"If one parent objects to the conversion (of the children), then the child should not convert but wait until the age of 18, the age of consent," Sivanesan said at a press conference at the DAP headquarters today.

Present with him were Indira Gandhi and her daughter Tevy Darsiny and son Karan Dinish. The one-year-old baby was taken away from Indira Gandhi by her husband. DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang was also at the press conference.

Sivanesan said spouses who used syariah law after becoming Muslim to unilaterally convert their children were "taking the easy way out. They feel that, since I am Muslim, I do not need to bother with civil law. So there is no remedy for the non-Muslim spouse."