KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — The federal government cannot enforce a ban on child marriages nationwide as seven states are not cooperating, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail revealed in Parliament today.
The deputy prime minister told Dewan Rakyat during the Minister’s Question Time only Selangor has successfully amended its laws on child marriages.
“Amending the enactment/legal ordinance on minimum age for marriages can only happen if the states agreed with the proposed amendments. Only Selangor has amended the enactment while the Federal Territories is in the process of amending it.
“Five other states that have agreed to amend (the law) are Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak.
“There are still seven states that disagreed with the legal amendment, which are Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan,” she said in her reply to Ledang (PH) MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.
The women, family and community development minister also said her ministry is finalising the National Strategic Plan to Overcome the Reason of Underage Marriage.
The plan has programmes or actions involving 61 federal and state agencies and is expected to be presented to the Cabinet at the end of the year.
In his supplementary question, Syed Ibrahim asked what steps Putrajaya has taked against those who groom children for sexual acts, under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act.
“In this issue, criminal elements cannot be proven. There are no evidence of the communication can be traced and it is also protected by the Personal Data Protection Act while their relationship has obtained the approval of the child and the child’s parents.
“Another problem is after grooming, they marry the child and many of parents feel that it is good for the child to be married off. It is very difficult to determine the sexual crime,” said Dr Wan Azizah.
Rantau Panjang (PAS) MP Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusof then asked if the ministry has data on the divorce rate of child marriages, after noting that the divorce rate among those who are below 25 years of age has been spiking recently.
Dr Wan Azizah said it did not.