PUTRAJAYA, Jan 10 — The government is currently mulling its options by scrutinising proposals of legal amendments that will see the minimum age for marriage increased from 16 to 18-years-old, said Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas. 

Thomas said the AG’s Chambers (AGC) are currently evaluating its options into the proposed amendments, as the government’s legislative branch looks at their best efforts to safeguard the welfare and interest of children. 

“These include proposals to increase the minimum age of marriage for child brides from 16 to 18-years-old, and the introduction of more stringent procedures for a Shariah Court Judge to take into account before allowing a child below the age of eighteen to enter into a marriage. 

“Our officers are actively involved in consultation processes between the Federal and the States for purposes of uniformity in the law and the drafting of amendments to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984,” he said. 

Thomas made the revelation during his speech at the launch of Legal Year 2020, at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here this morning. 

The government has been put under pressure following calls to ban child marriages within the country after news of men marrying brides as young as 12-years-old in rural areas had surfaced.

Another proactive measure taken by the AGC, said Thomas, was the introduction of a diversion programme for offenders under the age of 18 aimed at diverting them away from the existing criminal justice system and instead promote children’s rehabilitation. 

He said the programme, which saw a pilot rollout in Sepang, Seremban, and Port Dickson in December last year, will see child offenders be meted out alternate punishments instead of imprisonment. 

“Diversion results in a child offender being given a police warning, a stern warning, or being referred to the Department of Social Welfare. 

“Sending them to prisons, which may have the effect of turning a good-hearted but misguided juvenile to a hardened criminal, must be avoided,” Thomas said in his speech. 

During this diversion process, the offenders would undergo counselling and mentoring sessions, while going through education and vocational activities like community service, the extent of which depends on the nature of the offence.