Under the proposed changes to the country's sharia law that applies to Muslim Malays, wives can ask for their share of assets, including property, acquired during the marriage in the event the husband takes an additional wife.

"The court will ensure that half the proceeds from property which they helped purchase will go to them," Sharia Judiciary Department director-general Shaikh Ghazali Abdul Rahman told the newspaper.

"If the husbands cannot meet this requirement, they can forget about taking another wife," he said of the amendment to the Islamic family law that will be tabled in parliament this month.

Ghazali said at a conference on sharia law that the changes were designed to prevent Muslim women from losing the marital assets to the husband or his new wives.

"The present wife or wives will not lose all if the husband takes another wife," he said.

Justice to spouses

"As husbands, they must provide equal affection and treatment to their wives, but the property has to be divided according to the wives' contribution."

"As husbands, they must provide equal affection and treatment to their wives but the property has to be divided according to the wives' contribution"

Shaikh Ghazali Abdul Rahman,
Sharia Judiciary Department director-general

Ghazali said that under the reforms, the new wives will also be called before the sharia court to explain their decision and be informed of their rights within the marriage.

Under Islamic law, men are allowed to marry four wives provided they will be able to be just and fair to all their wives. The law, however, encourages men to have only one wife.

A recent survey in Malaysia found that the majority of Muslim men are satisfied with one spouse.

The poll showed that nearly 90% of Muslim men are one-woman men, while only 5% have two wives and 4.3% have three.

While bigamy is outlawed for non-Muslims in the multicultural nation, the survey also found that 4% of Chinese men have two wives and 3% of Indian men have two wives.