Proposal to increase legal marriage age to 18 lauded

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Sisters in Islam (SIS) welcomes the government’s effort to ban child marriage by proposing to legally amend the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18 and to make the procedures more strict for a Sharia Court judge to allow marriages below the age of 18.

The issue of child marriage has long been debated in Malaysia, and it is refreshing to see that the government has taken action to safeguard the welfare of children despite the refusal of seven states (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Sarawak) to increase the legal marrying age.

SIS maintains that the minimum age of marriage should be raised to 18 without any exceptions.

Child marriage is harmful for children as it deprives them of their childhood and their right to education as they are often removed from school – hence, perpetuating their cycle of poverty.

As they are mostly married to much older men, they are incapable of voicing their concerns, especially when it comes to sexual expectations, resulting in early pregnancies which can cause higher risks of maternal and infant mortality.

Children who are married young experience a higher degree of domestic abuse.

While SIS welcomes the amendment, it is also crucial for the government to impose
comprehensive sexuality education in schools to curb unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The government should also aim to make education compulsory for children until Form Five to empower them to achieve their maximum potential.

The amendment of the law must be looked into urgently as delays in amending the law will increase the exposure of the children to marriage and restrict the country from achieving high-income status.

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