Sabah amending native laws to set marriage age at 18

In parts of Sabah, culture sometimes dictates that young children be married off early to help lift the families' burden or in cases where they cannot afford to continue school. — Picture by Hari Anggara
In parts of Sabah, culture sometimes dictates that young children be married off early to help lift the families' burden or in cases where they cannot afford to continue school. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KOTA KINABALU, April 18 — The Sabah state government said today it will amend legislation by the next state legislative assembly meeting to ban child marriage.

Law and Native affairs minister Datuk Aidi Mokhtar said that the state is proposing to amend the Islamic Family Law Enactment and the Native Courts Enactment and any other relevant laws.

“We have agreed to raise the minimum marriage age to 18, so we are proposing that the Islamic Family Law Enactment and the Native Courts Enactment plus any other relevant laws be amended in the coming state assembly sitting," said Aidi in his winding up speech at the state legislative assembly here today.

Last year, Sabah's underage marriage laws became the subject of controversy when Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said the state was considering Sabah Mufti Datuk Ismail Bungsu Aziz Jaafar's suggestion to reduce the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls from 16 to 14 years old, with the approval of the authorities.

Later, Shafie said the Cabinet has decided to make 18 the minimum marriage age in Sabah.

In the poorer districts of Sabah, culture sometimes dictates that young children be married off early to help lift the families' burden or in cases where they cannot afford to continue school.