THE 2017 AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW REFORM (MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE) ACT 1976: A MILESTONE OR A STONE’S THROW IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF MALAYSIAN FAMILY LAW?
Keywords:Law Reforms Act, amendments, family law, rights of non-Muslims, recommendations for future reforms
The Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA) which was passed in 1976 and came into force on 1st March 1982, standardized the laws concerning non-Muslim family matters. Many family issues concerning non-Muslim have emerged ever since, the most important being the effects of unilateral conversion to Islam by one of the parties to the marriage. There has been a lot of public hue and cry for amendments to be made to the LRA. After much deliberation, the Malaysian Parliament finally passed the amendments to the LRA in October 2017, which came into force in December 2018. Although the amendments have addressed selected family law issues, the most important amendment on child custody in a unilateral conversion to Islam was dropped from the Bill at the last minute. Howsoever, at the end of the day, the real question that needs to be addressed is whether the amendments have resolved the major issues that have arisen over the past four decades? Hence, the purpose of this article is as follows: first, to examine the brief background to the passing of the LRA, secondly, to analyse the 2017 amendments, thirdly, to identify the weaknesses that still exist in the LRA, and finally, to suggest recommendations to overcome these weaknesses by comparing the Malaysian position with the Singaporean position. In conclusion, it is submitted that despite the recent amendments to the LRA, much needs to be done to overcome all the remaining issues that have still not been addressed.
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