DPM moots Shariah Court SOP for child marriage

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says her ministry will look into standardising the minimum marriage age. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says her ministry will look into standardising the minimum marriage age. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, July 2 — The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will look into a standardised screening process for marriages involving minors, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today.

The deputy prime minister, who is also in charge of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, said the proposal is to protect the welfare of minors while upholding the sanctity of the Shariah Courts and the Native Courts in east Malaysia.

“There will always be exceptions to certain things... like customary marriages in Sabah and Sarawak, which we have to take into consideration.

“That is why we want to do [it] at the federal level. 

“If you want to get married, at least we have a standard operating procedure that we must adhere to,” she said at her ministry’s Hari Raya open house here.

Dr Wan Azizah said the guideline will likely include making medical and psychological tests compulsory for children who want to get married.

“You have to get the child to go for medical checks, get the child to go for psychological checks, among others.

“We must also check if there is an element of sexual grooming present because bottomline is the interest of the child,” she said.

Under Islamic laws, the marriageable age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, but the Shariah courts hold the authority to give consent to those under the permitted age to get married. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims.

It is, however, not known how a Syarie judge will make his decision when it comes to approving underage marriages, as the conditions are not listed in local Islamic family laws.

This application for approval can easily be made by the couple or their parents at any marriage, divorce and reconciliation counter at the respective state religious department.

Dr Wan Azizah reiterated that the government is committed to ending child marriage in the future.

She had previously said that the government will amend the Child Act 2016 and the Islamic Family Law Enactments to raise the marriageable age for women from 16 to 18.

“I have instructed my officers to start deliberations on the changes needed to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 for both men and women,” she said.

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