KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — A recent United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) Malaysia poll on child marriage found 95 per cent of respondents saying it is wrong for a man to marry a 14-year-old girl.
Unicef Malaysia representative Marianne Clark-Hattingh said the results of the survey were heartening as child marriages rob children of their childhood and is a violation of their rights.
“Child brides risk complications during childbirth and are prone to domestic violence and abuse,” she said in a statement today.
“For every year a girl is married before adulthood, her literacy reduces by 5.6 per cent. Their daughters too are more likely to drop out of school and marry young.
“Allowing children to grow into healthy, educated adults is not only right in principle but also in practice, for the child, the future of their family, and the sustainable and inclusive advancement of the nation," she added.
The same survey also found that 86 per cent of respondents agreed that the minimum legal age for marriage in Malaysia should be 18 years and above, with almost 50 per cent of the female respondents saying it should be 21 years and above.
The Unicef survey was run on social media application Line over a five day period from August 4 until 8 with over 771 people participating in the poll, made up of 72 per cent female respondents and 28 per cent male.
Unicef said the informal survey was conducted in reaction to the recent case in Sarawak that involved statutory rape and subsequent marriage involving a 15-year-old girl.
Late last month, Ahmad Syukri Yusuf, who was charged in court for raping a 14-year-old girl was discharged not amounting to acquittal after he married the alleged victim.
Ahmad Syukri was charged in Kuching with statutory rape of a girl late last year who was then 14 at the time of the offence, reported the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to English language daily Borneo Post, Ahmad Syukri was accused of committing statutory rape twice, the first in the middle of October and the second on October 16 last year.
The charge saw him facing up to 30 years in jail and whipping for the offence.
Ahmad Syukri, who is reported to be 22 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and 28 by Borneo Post Online, submitted a marriage certificate with the girl withdrawing her complaint, following which, Sessions Court judge Afidah Abdul Rahman ruled a discharge not amounting to acquittal.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had earlier this month confirmed that the case will be reviewed by the High Court.