GEORGE TOWN, Nov 22 — The Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) has called on Putrajaya to enact federal legislation banning child marriage to override any inconsistencies with state laws.
The women’s group said Article 75 of the Federal Constitution provides for the federal law to prevail over any inconsistencies with respective state laws, and therefore Putrajaya must take a lead to tackle the issue so state governments can do the same.
“This problem requires the collective response of all arms of government, at both federal and state levels: Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies, the Executive (namely Cabinet and the various state executive councils), and the Judiciary, in particular Shariah Court judges,” the group said in a statement.
It reminded authorities that girls are still vulnerable to sexual abuse and socio-economic deprivation for the rest of their lives, while the rest of the world celebrated Children’s Day on November 20.
The WCC said it stands with its sister organisations, Sisters in Islam (SIS) and All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), in condemning child marriage in Malaysia.
“We call upon members of the state legislative assemblies to look into enacting or amending the necessary laws at state level,” it said.
It also called upon Cabinet ministers and state executive councillors to take special policy, and practice measures in prioritising this issue within their respective jurisdictions.
“We plead with our leaders to set aside political differences in the name of the welfare and wellbeing of our children,” it said.
Furthermore, it urged Shariah Court judges to exercise the existing power and discretion vested in them in the best interests of the child at all times, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child which Malaysia has ratified.
“We appreciate Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s assurance that the Federal Government will continue to push for child marriage to be banned in all states,” they said.
It voiced their support for his strategy to engage the Conference of Rulers and the National Islamic Affairs Council in pushing through a ban on child marriages and hoped these measures can be taken immediately.
Earlier this week, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail informed the Dewan Rakyat that Kedah, Kelantan, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Sarawak, and Terengganu have declined to amend their state legislations to prohibit child marriages for both Muslims and natives.