PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian has urged the statement government to amend the Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance to stop unilateral conversion of minors.
He said Section 69 of the 2001 Ordinance, which allows conversion to Islam of a minor "if... his parent or guardian consents to the conversion" must be changed to match proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.
Among others, the amendment to the 1976 Act will require consent of both parents for conversion of a minor to Islam.
"I fully support the call by the Association of Churches for the Sarawak government to amend the Majlis Sarawak Ordinance to be in tandem with the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act once amended, and to bring it in line with the constitutional guarantees which is the entitlement of every citizen of Malaysia," Baru said in a statement.
The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) yesterday urged the state to amend the 2001 law to match the federal law amendment, in accordance with Article 75 which states federal laws prevail over state laws.
The Ba'Kelalan assemblyperson said allowing unilateral conversion of minors violates the non-consenting parent's right to equality, under the constitution.
It also breaches the child's right under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Malaysia is a signatory.
"These conversions have caused immense suffering and expense to many families in the past and it is hoped that the amendments to the law will prevent such cases in a future," he said.
The bill, tabled for first reading last month, is opposed by the Muslim Lawyers Association who argue that it is unconstitutional.
The lawyers argue that the Federal Court had previously interpreted the word "parent" in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution to mean "a parent or guardian", and not both parents.
The Article 124(A) states "the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian".
However, the 11th schedule of the Federal Constitution states "words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular".