Seven states still in favour of child marriage

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By wagggs.org

SEVEN Malaysian states have opposed the government’s move to raise the minimum legal marriageable age for Muslims to 18, although a draft legislature to change the age is in the final stage.

Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan disagreed with the legal amendment to child marriage laws, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Only Selangor has amended its state enactment, while the Federal Territories have begun the amendment process. Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak have agreed to amend their laws, she added.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also women, family and community development minister, said the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) is finalising the amendment to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) 1984 (Act 303) and is coordinating with state departments to increase the marriageable age among Muslims.

“The enactments (state ordinance) and minimum marriage age can only be amended if the states agree to the amendments,” she told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday in response to a question by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (Pakatan Harapan-Ledang) during minister’s question time.

The minimum age for Muslims seeking marriage is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, according to the Islamic Family Law. However, those under the legal age can seek permission to marry from the Shariah Court.

For non-Muslims, the minimum age for both boys and girls is 18 with consent from the parents, as per the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, although girls can marry at 16 if they obtain a licence from their state’s chief minister or mentri besar.

Those aged under 16 are not allowed to get married.

Dr Wan Azizah had said in September last year that her ministry and Jakim would work to raise the minimum legal marriage age, following an uproar over two high-profile child marriage cases in Kelantan.

In Parliament yesterday, the minister also expressed hopes that her ministry will be able to table a National Strategic Plan for Child Marriage to the Cabinet before the year ends.

14,999 child marriages were recorded between 2007 and 2017, with Sarawak having the highest number of registered child marriages, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh revealed in July last year.

Meanwhile, a report by the Child Rights Coalition Malaysia in 2009 showed that over 9,000 children between ages 10 and 19 had undergone pre-marital HIV tests.

Several local non-government organisations have recently urged authorities to set a higher minimum age for marriage, after Indonesia revised its marriage law to raise the minimum age by three years to 19 to curb child brides.

According to campaign group Girls Not Brides, Indonesia has one of the world’s highest numbers of child brides.

One in four girls in Indonesia is married before they turn 18, latest available data by the Indonesian government showed.