Social protection programmes needed for children in poverty, says Suhakam

Chairman Razali Ismail said in a statement that child marriage is not a solution to eradicating poverty. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Chairman Razali Ismail said in a statement that child marriage is not a solution to eradicating poverty. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development should prioritise social protection programmes for children in poverty to tackle the issue of child brides, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said.

Its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said Suhakam believes that such programmes will have a strong positive effect on the issue of child marriage in the country.

He said in a statement that child marriage is not a solution to eradicating poverty, referring to the case reported today of a 15-year-old girl from a poor family who married a 44-year-old man in Kelantan.

“There is international consensus that child marriage perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty because girls married off for money or due to poverty often do not complete their education, which in turn severely limits their economic opportunities in the future,” he said in a statement.

Razali said the case also reinforced the ambiguity and shortcomings of the authorities’ standard operating procedure towards child marriage, expressing concern that if this continues, parents can legally resort to selling their children under the guise of marriage.

“It now appears that poverty can also be a reason accepted by the Shariah court to approve an application for marriage of an underage child, which in turn seems to treat children as mere commodities,” he added.

Razali called on the ministry to protect all children from exploitation by outlawing child marriage.

This morning, it was reported that the 15-year-old girl had been taken as the second wife of a man almost 30 years her senior.

It was said that the Muslim solemnisation of vows — between the man who is a member of the People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) and the 15-year-old who is a secondary school dropout — was done in July at the Masjid Kampung Laut in Tumpat, Kelantan.

The Shariah court approved the marriage between the girl, who is the youngest daughter of an impoverished couple with 13 children, and the 44-year-old man, who already has two children.

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