Move to ban child marriages in Malaysia

5
1770

Sisters in Islam (SIS) welcomes with great earnest the efforts of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to sign a decree that would ban child marriage in the country, and strongly urges the Malaysian government to make positive steps to move in the same direction.

According to Unicef, 14% of girls in Indonesia are married before 18 and 1% marry before 15. Human Rights Watch reported that while the 1974 Marriage Law in Indonesia allows men and women to marry at 21, girls are allowed to marry at 16 and men to marry at 19 with parental permission. Parents can also ask religious courts of local officials to authorise marriages of girls even earlier, with no minimum age in such cases. Unicef reported that more than 90% of these exemption cases are accepted.

In Malaysia, the minimum age of marriage for non-Muslims is 18 for boys and girls. Exemptions, however, are allowed for girls as young as 16 to marry with the approval of the chief minister of the State. For Muslims, the minimum age for marriage for boys is 18 and for girls is 16. The Sharia Court, however, may approve the marriage of a child at any age. This means that by law, there is no minimum age for Muslims.

READ MORE:  Hakam calls for the elimination of child marriages

At the 69th Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) session in Geneva earlier this year, the committee explicitly pointed out that in Malaysia, child marriages continue to be permitted under both the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act and Islamic family law, despite the withdrawal of Malaysia’s reservation of article 16 (2) of the Convention. The committee also voiced concern that the rate of child marriages in Malaysia continues to rise.

A proposal to amend the Sexual Offences Against Children bill to include a ban against child marriage was voted down by a majority in Parliament in April last year.

In fact, the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP), launched by then Prime Minister Najib Razak in March this year, had proposed an action plan to updating the SOP for child marriage applications in Malaysia. This proposal is not only counter to safeguarding the welfare of the child, but dangerously strengthens child marriages as an institution in the country.

As reported by UnicefF, girls married at a young age are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence and sexual abuse, compared to those who marry later. The World Health Organisation also seriously highlights that “complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death in young women aged 15-19.”

WHO goes on to report that young girls who marry later and delay their pregnancy beyond their adolescence have a greater chance of staying healthier, going further in education, and building better lives for themselves and their families.

Given these social and economic repercussions of child marriages, Malaysia must act in the best interest of all children, Muslim and non-Muslim, and take positive and concrete steps towards putting an end to child marriage in the country, with no exceptions.

READ MORE:  Government must protect welfare of all children

Sisters in Islam

Thanks for dropping by! Apart from the views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed, the opinions in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation of whatever amount you can afford to sustain Aliran. Please make payments to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.

And why not become an Aliran member or subscribe to our FREE newsletters.

5
Join the conversation

avatar
750
3 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
Jeda LamChristine Xavier-gordonChin Tu LanYong Tan Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Jeda Lam

Ridiculous 9!!?

Christine Xavier-gordon

Child marriage is a symptom of a much wider problem of patriarchal abuse of women and the objectification of women as subject to male gratification. FGM belongs in this debate too.

Chin Tu Lan

FGM would be a tough one as it is more than 99% now. Males almost 100%.

Christine Xavier-gordon

Chin Tu Lan feet binding in China was also widespread but it was ended. FGM is a crime against humanity

Yong Tan

We have to look after our young ones