KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — DAP MP Kasthuri Patto lauded Sabah for standardising the minimum age of marriage at 18 and hoped this will lead to a nationwide elimination of child marriages.
On Monday, Sabah Law and Native Affairs Assistant Minister Jannie Lasimbang announced that the decision was reached in conjunction with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry at the last Parliament sitting.
“This news comes as a timely Chinese New Year gift for all children not only in Sabah but throughout the nation as a spillover effect is hoped,” the international secretary for Wanita DAP said in a statement.
The controversy over child marriages in Malaysia reignited last year after a 41-year-old Kelantan man was found to have taken an 11-year-old Thai girl as his third wife.
This, among others, prompted the government to work towards banning child marriages by standardising the minimum age to wed at 18 years’ old regardless of gender or religion.
Currently for non-Muslims, the minimum marriage age for boys and girls is 18, but a non-Muslim girl aged 16 may marry with the approval of their respective mentri besar or chief minister.
Under state Islamic laws, the marriageable age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, but Shariah courts have the authority to give consent to those below the permitted age to get married. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims.
Today, the Batu Kawan MP said religious leaders must work urgently to address this matter and safeguard the welfare of children.
“We hope others will read and execute the Civil, Shariah and Native Customary Laws to be in harmony with the each other to reduce marriages below 18. Also, nations with high rates of child marriages often fare poorly economically and worse of where social justice is concerned,” said Kasthuri.
Kasthuri pointed out that a recent study by the International Centre for Research on Women and World Bank estimated a reduction of child marriages goes hand in hand with a decline in population growth which in turn leads to an increase in gross domestic product.