KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat, just after midnight, passed the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2017 that is aimed at amending the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 or (Act 164).

The decision was announced by Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Ronald Kiandee at about 12.40am after the third reading of the bill by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said, which was seconded by Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Hamim Samuri.

Earlier, after Azalina tabled the bill for the second reading, MPs spent more than three hours debating the bill.

Azalina, in an hour-long winding up speech, said the amendment aims to provide room for a non-Muslim couple, where one spouse had converted to Islam, to file a petition for the dissolution of the marriage in the civil courts, either separately or together.

She said it was to avoid action by either the husband or wife who did not want to terminate the marriage but did not want to bear any responsibility towards the spouse, their children or properties.

“It means that though a person who converts to Islam is bound by the Islamic family law, as is his right, it is still a question of the family he left behind,” she said.

Azalina said the amendment does not deny the rights of a person in the Syariah Court, instead it encourages a person to be more responsible in divorcing the spouse in the civil court.

Prior to this, Azalina in a statement, said the amendment was also made to ensure that no party can challenge the legality of the law under Clause (1) Article 4 of the Federal Constitution.

“The government is serious in making an amendment to this law to maintain harmony among the diverse races and religions in the country besides ensuring that claims such as custody and maintenance of the children up to the highest level of education are sustained and guaranteed.” Bernama