DPM: Under Islamic law, marriage of child bride in Kelantan still valid

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says Putrajaya is powerless to nullify the marriage because Kelantanese Islamic laws allow children under 16 to get married with the permission of a Shariah Court judge. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says Putrajaya is powerless to nullify the marriage because Kelantanese Islamic laws allow children under 16 to get married with the permission of a Shariah Court judge. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, July 10 ― The marriage between the 41-year-old rubber dealer and the 11-year-old Thai national remains valid under Islam even after the man was fined RM1,800 by the Gua Musang Shariah Subordinate Court.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said Putrajaya is powerless to nullify the marriage because Kelantanese Islamic laws allow children under 16 to get married with the permission of a Shariah Court judge.

“Legally it is not valid but under Islamic laws it is,” Dr Wan Azizah, who is also minister of women, family and community development, told reporters here.

Che Mohd Karim Che Hamid was fined for two charges of unauthorised marriage and unapproved polygamy in relation to the case, which has sparked nationwide uproar.

A report by Berita Harian published yesterday said Gua Musang Shariah Subordinate Court judge Surbaineey Hussain imposed a fine of RM900 on for each of the two charges. The man pleaded guilty to both.

The 41-year-old is now required to register his marriage in Kelantan to have it validated, but will have to seek permission from a Shariah Court judge for approval.

Dr Wan Azizah on Sunday said the authorities are “closely” monitoring the case amid ongoing investigation, and today said the government is “working” with the National Fatwa Council to push the age limit for marriage to 18.

“We will engage them and try to have them push the age limit for marriage to 18,” she said in response to press queries on whether or not the new administration plans to table anti-child marriage laws.

Legal observers and child rights groups said the controversy surrounding child marriages highlights the complicated nature of a federalised Islamic legal system, where each state is governed by its respective regulations pertaining to Islam.

At the federal level, authorities are unable to act on the 41-year-old or cancel the marriage because he has not violated any federal laws.

The man wedded the girl in Southern Thailand.

Wan Azizah today said the RM1,800 fine on the rubber dealer was a “slap in the wrist”, but at the same time expressed hope that the penalty could be translated as the Court’s disapproval of the marriage.

“I hope with the penalty the court would hold him on to it and explain,” the deputy prime minister said, referring to the requirement for a Shariah Court judge to write in clear terms the reasons for approving an under-aged marriage.

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