KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — Women’s right group Sisters in Islam (SIS) said the proposals to increase the minimum marriage age from 16 to 18-years-old and the introduction of more stringent procedures for a Shariah Court Judge to allow marriages below 18 were long overdue as delays would restrict the country from achieving a high-income status.
In welcoming the government’s effort to ban child marriage through legal amendments, SIS said it was also crucial to impose a comprehensive sexuality education in schools to curb unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
“The amendment of the law must be looked into urgently as delays in amending the law will increase the exposure of the children to marriage and restrict the country to achieve a high-income status.
“The issue of child marriage has long been debated in Malaysia and it is refreshing to see that the government has taken actions to safeguard the welfare of children despite the refusal of seven states (Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Sarawak) to increase the legal marrying age.
“SIS maintains that the minimum age of marriage should be raised to 18 without any exceptions,” the group said in a statement here.
On January 10, Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas said the government was mulling its options by scrutinising proposals of legal amendments that will see the minimum age for marriage increased from 16 to 18-years-old.
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.
SIS explained that child marriages were harmful to children as it deprived them of their childhood and right to education.
“As they are mostly married to much older men, they are incapable of voicing their concerns, especially when it comes to sexual expectations, resulting in early pregnancies which can cause higher risks of maternal and infant mortality.
“Children who are married young experience a higher degree of domestic abuse,” the group added.
Earlier today, deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government was drawing up a comprehensive, strategic plan to identify and address the cause of underage or child marriages.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the age limit for marriage should be an age that is capable for a person to shoulder domestic responsibilities.