Will recent KL High Court ruling open floodgates for non-Muslims to have “legal mistresses”?

Letter to Editor

I WAS seated at a café recently when I overheard a bunch of 20-something co-workers seated at the next table chiding their Malay colleague.

“Hah, see now we non-Muslims can also kahwin empat! (have four wives)” one exclaimed, brandishing his handphone in the face of his Muslim friend. The conversation alluded to a Free Malaysia Today (FMT) news report that said it was now legal for non-Muslims to take “extra bini” as one was overheard saying.

Curious, I googled for the said news report and found it trending.

According to the report which had gotten the adjacent diners so gleeful, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had ruled that a post-nuptial agreement between a business tycoon and his Singapore-born wife – one that allows the husband to keep a mistress during the subsistence of their marriage – is legally binding.

The judged ruled that such agreements between non-Muslim spouses hold statutory recognition under Section 56 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

“As long as there is no violation of any law, parties to a marriage have the right to make decisions about their relationships and lifestyle preferences according to their unique needs, desires and circumstances,” said Justice Evrol Mariette Peters in an 87-page judgment posted on the judiciary’s website earlier this week.

The said FMT report further stated that the wife – a graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS) who petitioned for divorce – argued that the agreement was not enforceable as she had executed it in ignorance, and under pressure and duress.

Rights of “mistresses”

However, Peters rejected the wife’s plea of ignorance, noting that she had signed the agreement in the presence of witnesses and initialled every page (those who want more details can read the report).

Let’s be honest, many non-Muslim Malaysians will admit to hearing some of their brethren express envy at their Muslim peers who have the “privilege” of taking more than one spouse.

This latest court ruling will seem like their prayers have been answered. However, there are a few pertinent issues that need to be raised.

Firstly, what rights will the “mistress” have? The court ruling merely recognises that the agreement was valid and legally binding.

It does not touch on what rights this “second wife” has. This is unlike in Syariah law where strict guidelines must be followed for a man to take on extra spouses.

Furthermore, Muslim spouse have rights under Syariah enactments and can take their claims to Syariah court. Will similar legal protection be available to these “mistresses”?

Secondly, will this court ruling encourage gatal men to try force such agreements onto spouses? Easier said than done but in instances where the wife is economically dependent on the husband, it may tip the scales in favour of the bread winner.

Should this ruling be allowed to stand? Will it open the floodgates with family and contract law experts offering specialist services?

Judging from the mirth and chuckles from the next table, one can assume that some will definitely try their luck. – April 20, 2024


Potential Bigamist
Kuala Lumpur

 The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main image credit: Minhaz Box

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