Children’s rights groups and activists from all over the country are calling for a ban on child marriage in Malaysia, in the wake of an 11-year-old Thai girl marrying a 41-year-old Malaysian man.
It is the third marriage for the man, who already has two wives and six children in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) expressed concern that allowing child marriage might encourage paedophilia.
“Suhakam is concerned that at present, religious justifications supported by law may be used to provide cover for paedophiles and child sexual predators who marry the children or victims.
“Suhakam does not think enough has been done to end child marriage in Malaysia and believes that zero tolerance of child marriage must be enforced at every root of society,” said its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail.
Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said Islam has never advocated forcing girls and women into marriage, adding that a girl’s consent must be seen in the right context.
“An underage girl who does not understand the reality of what she is agreeing to cannot be considered as offering consent.
“A guardian (wali) who marries her off due to poverty, where he stands to profit somehow, is not fit to be her guardian.
“A guardian is meant to be a protector, but he is no longer a protector. In fact, he is a perpetrator,” he said in a lengthy Facebook post yesterday.
Activist lawyer Siti Kasim said punishing the parents of the child bride would not resolve the problem, as their vulnerability was due to the fact that they were poor and uneducated.
“Our Pakatan Harapan government must, in light of the ongoing debate on the above position, make an executive decision to ban child marriage,” she wrote in a post on her Facebook page.
She also said protecting children must be the Government’s ultimate aim and that no religious edicts or beliefs should come into play.
The Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) president Assoc Prof Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar said it is the responsibility of parents not to be complicit in such marriage arrangements.
“Procedures should be reviewed to close any possible loopholes so that we don’t have such cases and at the same time respect the institution of marriage,” she said in a statement.
The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) said laws must be put in place to prohibit child marriage, as such early marriages violated human rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“As early as 2010, the Deputy Minister for Women had revealed that there were close to 15,000 Malaysian girls in child marriages.
“The Government should take the initiative to come up with an action plan to protect Malaysian children,” said its president Prof Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar.
The Child Rights Civil Society Organisations Group said child marriage was unacceptable anywhere in the world.
It urged the Government to take immediate action to ban child marriage by setting the legal minimum age for marriage at 18 and to fulfil what was promised in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto on this issue. – The Star
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