KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — Child rights groups urged Pakatan Harapan (PH) today to implement its election pledge to set the legal minimum age for marriage at 18.
Thirty-two child rights groups also called for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, to address child protection issues, amid controversy surrounding a 41-year-old Kelantanese man who married an 11-year-old girl.
“We ask the PH Government (in particular KPWKM, PDRM, MOH, Home Ministry, AGs Chambers and MOE) to urgently do a complete review of the child development and protection support systems which has more often than not failed our children,” said the groups in a joint statement, referring to the Women’s Ministry, the police, the Health Ministry, Attorney General’s Chambers, and Education Ministry.
“Child marriage is totally unacceptable anywhere in the world. No exceptions. It is not in the best interests of a child whose rights to health, education and protection are likely to be jeopardised as the child’s focus shifts from completing school to domestic duties and parenthood,” added the groups, including Childline Malaysia, Women’s Aid Organisation, and Yayasan Chow Kit.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said yesterday it would investigate the latest child marriage case, in which the 41-year-old religious leader reportedly married the 11-year-old Thai national pupil in Thailand.
The legal age of marriage for non-Muslims is 18 for both genders, but a girl aged 16 can be legally married if the state chief minister/mentri besar or in the case of the federal territories, its minister, authorises it by granting a licence. But non-Muslims cannot get married below 16.
As for Muslims, the minimum legal age for marriage in the states’ Islamic family laws is 18 and 16 for a male and female respectively, but those below these ages can still marry if they get the consent of a Shariah judge. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims.