Sisters in Islam (SIS) views the government’s comprehensive effort to end child marriage in Malaysia by launching a five-year plan as a responsible step in the right direction towards ending child marriage in Malaysia.
We applaud the fact that the plan, which covers short, medium and long-term programmes and actions, involves not only federal and state government agencies but also non-governmental organisations and international organisations.
While seven states (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Sarawak) in Malaysia still refuse to raise the legal marrying age to 18, it is encouraging to see the government has outlined actions towards ending child marriage by ensuring that state-level laws, rules and guidelines are aligned with federal policies through this plan.
It is crucial that the plan, involving 61 agencies and 58 programmes or actions, leads to compliance with international standards that Malaysia has ratified, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and moves towards the fulfilment of the UN sustainable development goals of leaving no one behind.
SIS looks forward to continuous engagement with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development with regard to this plan and its implementation and urges that all identified ministries, departments and agencies give their full support and cooperation to the ministry so that child marriage will no longer be a reality in Malaysia within the stipulated timeframe.
SIS also calls for open channels of communications with the steering committee of the national strategic plan on addressing the causes of underage marriage that will be monitoring the implementation of the programmes or actions of this plan.
Evidence has shown that child marriage is harmful to children, and it is our obligation as Malaysians to end and prevent child marriages.
SIS maintains that the minimum age of marriage for women and men should be 18 without exception and hopes that this plan is implemented urgently and seriously for the sake of our children’s future.