Archive for the ‘Child Marriage.’ Category

Underage rape victims need help, not marriage.

Friday, August 11th, 2017

MOST of the time, we reflexively say we are fine when asked how we are. But the truth is, we have different ways of defining how it is like to be fine.

But here is something that is easier for us to agree upon – it is hard to imagine that a 16-year-old dropout is fine, considering she was raped at the age of 12, is married to the very man who violated her, and the husband is in prison for committing that crime.

That is a lot for a teenager to endure, let alone overcome.

By itself, statutory rape is already repugnant and devastating. But when the victim is married at such a young age to the person who took advantage of her naivete, she may well be facing hugely unfair odds in life.

The rape was committed in February 2013, in a parked vehicle on a road near a waterfall in Inanam, Sabah.

The man, a father of four and who is now 44, married the schoolgirl in May that same year in a bid to escape conviction.

He is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence. He was also jailed and fined for bribing the girl’s father so that the police report on his crime would be withdrawn.

The case sparked an outcry over the fact that it is legal in certain situations for rapists to marry their underage victims.

This is seen as a way for the rapists to avoid prosecution or at least to lighten their sentences.

The victims, however, may be deprived of the protection and support they need.

At the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim provided an update on the teenager, who lives with her parents in Kota Kinabalu.

According to Rohani, the ministry visited the girl at her family home on April 18 and found her to be in good health.

The teenager did not go back to school after the controversy received wide media coverage. She told the ministry officer she was comfortable living with her parents and was taking care of her siblings.

While the parents indicated that they had no problems taking care of the 16-year-old, added Rohani, the girl said she intended to work so she could be self-sufficient.

Yesterday, the ministry issued a statement to point out that the Government did not encourage underage marriage as it affected a child’s potential and growth.

Referring to the case of the 16-year-old, the ministry said it would do its best “to give the necessary social support and counselling as well as monitoring intended to protect the child”.

The Star Says,
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Many statutory rapes in Sabah

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Deputy State Police Commissioner ­Datuk Razarudin Husain (pic) said as many as four out of five cases of sexual assault reported in Sabah involve statutory rape.

“They are frequent moral cases. Even though in some cases it is consensual sex, having sex with a girl below 16-years-old is still statutory rape.

“I see boys under age of 20 charged and put in jail for statutory rape. It is in fact a loss to the government because these youngsters are the manpower of the State.

“I see such cases happen a lot in Sabah…and I think the media should play a role in informing the people to take care of their children and create moral awareness,” he said, when asked for statistics.

He said this after police rescued three girls believed to be human trafficking victims and arrested an 18-year-old boy, believed to be their caretaker, at a hotel room in Sandakan, Monday. The girls, aged between 15 and 17, had no documents.

A public tip-off prompted police to raid the hotel premises where they found the girls in a room at about 6pm.

A total of RM300 was seized from the 18-year-old boy who holds a foreign passport.

“Such cases are not taken lightly, things like this should not happen, especially when it involves victims who are underage,” he said, adding that the case is being probed under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act.

However, he said Sandakan could not be a transit point because things like this do happen, citing the February incident in Tawau where 11 foreigners were caught under the same Act.

“The victims are trafficked perhaps for vice activities or for labour but whatever it is, investigations are continuing,” he said.

“It is still too early to say much, we are still investigating but I think it was not that long,” he said when asked how long the victims were here prior to being rescued.

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The real ‘Beast’ is child marriage

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

BEAUTY and the Beast (1991) had a huge impact on my childhood. Out of the many Disney protagonists, I related most to Belle for her love of books, her dreams of escaping a provincial, small town life and the loneliness that comes from being non-conforming.

The feeling of being the odd one out escalated for me as, at the ol’ ripe age of nine, I had my first menses. Hitting puberty at such a young age was a psychosocial struggle, not only for missing out on simply being a kid like most of my peers, but for all the jibes I had to endure about my body and the sudden shift in responsibilities that came with “being an adult”.

I was also told that I was of “marriageable age”, as purportedly Aisha was betrothed to the Prophet at the age of nine. This particular part of Islamic history is commonly used by proponents of child marriage, despite the ongoing scholarly debate on the reputation of hadiths on this issue, with existing literature by Dr Jasser Auda and others calculating Aisha’s real age to be at 17 to 19 at marriage.

Even to my young mind then, I could not fathom being a wife and mother at an age when I could barely figure out how to put on sanitary pads the right side up.

Thankfully, my parents were progressive. Instead of being forced into marriage, I was chartered off to boarding school and gained a ticket out from my version of a provincial life, without the need to lift an enchanted curse off a prince and his household help.

In the 26 years between the release of the animated movie and the live-action version released last week in Malaysia, things have yet to improve for young Belles everywhere. Case in point: the parliamentary debate on the Child Sexual Offences Bill.

Responding to Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching’s proposal to include a minimum age for marriage in the Bill, Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff and Tasek Gelugor MP, Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, used religion as an overarching excuse to exclude this clause from the Bill.

Shabudin even went further to allege that rape victims would “not have a bleak future” when married off to their rapists, and that such marriages would cure social ills.

Sifting through a number of news reports and watching a recording of the debate, I came to the conclusion that the Tasek Gelugor MP is a proponent of child marriage. Here, I wish to provide arguments for Malaysians to demand more from our MPs and push for a ban on child marriage.

While the Quran does not specify age of marriage, Surah An-Nisa provides guidance for Muslims to act with justice and compassion when deciding policies on marriage. Contrary to popular belief, physical puberty is not the sole measure of “marriageable age”, where Muslim judicial principles clearly state the need for intellectual maturity in handling one’s own finances and affairs to enter into a legal contract, such as marriage (for more information, refer to Musawah CEDAW 2012 and OHCHR 2013 reports available online at

I quote from the same resource: “Early and forced marriages have many harmful consequences for girls, including psychological and emotional trauma; domestic violence; and health problems such as premature pregnancy, maternal mortality, and sexually transmitted infections. These marriages are also entangled with other forms of vulnerabilities such as economic and social marginalisation. They often limit women and girls’ rights to education, employment, and financial independence.”

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Livestream: Why child marriages are wrong

Friday, April 7th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Child marriages are “always wrong”, according to experts speaking on R.AGE’s live Facebook talk show, The Couch.

The show’s guests, criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat and child rights advocate Sharmila Sekaran, discussed an extensive list of points on how destructive child marriages are for those involved.

They were speaking in response to Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shahbudin Yahaya’s remarks in Parliament on Tuesday that girls as young as nine who had reached puberty could be “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.

Dr Geshina, however, said that child brides are just not physiologically ready for sex and childbirth. Statistics quoted in a statement by Unicef shows that girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women aged 20-24.

Geshina and Sharmila also discussed the negative psychological and socio-economic impact of child marriages on both parties, and fielded questions from the show’s online audience.
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Lawmakers scrutinise Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawmakers spent more than nine hours in gruelling debates over the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017.

The debate on the Bill, which was at the committee stage last night, will continue today.

The Bill was scrutinised by MPs who raised several questions on the working of the proposed law.

Their concerns included questions on why child marriages were not addressed as a sexual offence against children, how to deal with victims during testimonies, how authorities can deal with the “dark web” and underground global paedophile networks, and also child pornography.

Some lawmakers argued that Section 2 – which states the Act is to be used for children below the age of 18 – was confusing and could allow perpetrators above the age of 18 to escape prosecution.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said pointed out the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 was drafted to protect victims from all form of sexual acts without taking into consideration their age.

She argued the Bill was specifically targeted to protect victims and this was clear from its title.

“This is for the victims, not the perpetrator. The perpetrator can be of any age,” she said, adding the age definition of a child was in line with the Child Act (Amendment) 2016.

On child marriages, Azalina said there are specific laws in Syariah and civil laws which allowed children below 16 to marry.

The current civil laws allows a person below 16 to marry with permission from the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar, while Muslims below the same age can marry with the consent of Syariah Courts.

She pointed out the Bill also allowed the Government to prosecute Malaysians who travelled abroad to commit sexual crimes against children.

This showed the government’s seriousness, she said, to nab sexual predators regardless of where the crime is committed.

Earlier Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abd Karim said the new laws were needed to punish those who preyed on children.

Due to the efforts of The Star in successfully lobbying 115 MPs to pledge their support for new laws against child sexual crimes, the Bill is widely expected to pass (112 votes are needed to pass the Bill).

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Fewer child marriages

Friday, May 20th, 2016

THERE were 9,061 child marriages recorded over the last five years but they looked to be on a downward trend in the past three years.

Of the number, 6,286 Muslim youths – be­­low age 18 for males and 16 for females – tied the knot between 2010 and 2015 following approvals by the Syariah Court.

The rest, numbering 2,775, were non-Muslim, with the marriages recorded by the National Registration Department (NRD).

The figures were disclosed by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun in her reply to Datuk Sapawi Ahmad Wasali (BN-Sipitang).

(Although the legal marrying age for non-Muslims is 18, those below 16 could get married with parental consent and written permission from the state’s chief minister or mentri besar, or under customary laws of Sabah and Sarawak.)

Azizah said based on Syariah Court records, there was an increase in Muslim child marriages between 2010 and 2012: 891 cases in 2010; 1,045 in 2011; and 1,095 cases in 2012.

However, the cases went down from 1,090 in 2013 to 1,032 in 2014, and 1,025 last year, she revealed.

“The same trend was noted for non-Muslim children for the same period,” she said, adding that the NRD recorded 553 cases in 2010, 502 in 2011, and 486 in 2012.

“But there was a slight increase in 2013 with 514 cases.”

The number of non-Muslim child mar­riages, however, dipped again in 2014 to 410 cases and 328 last year.

Although amendments to the Child Act were carried out last year, Azizah said no provisions were made for child marriages as they were governed under family law.

“However, the ministry is taking measures to address the issue through reproductive health education, awareness programmes and counselling,” she said.

She added that a Special Task Force on Underage Marriages, comprising representatives from relevant government agencies, child activists and academicians, had been set up to address the issue.

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Suhakam welcomes Child Act amendments, but wants legal marrying age raised to 18

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has welcomed amendments to the Child Act 2001, but wants the legal age for marriage to be raised to 18.

In a press release on Monday, its chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (pic) said that they were concerned with the omission to prohibit marriages between any persons below 18 years.

“The Commission therefore urges the Government to amend all domestic laws to raise the legal age of marriage for all to 18 years, to be in compliance with the Child Act which defines children as those below the age of 18,” he said.

In general, Hasmy described amendments to the Act as “comprehensive”.

He said that it showed continuous improvements in the protection of children’s rights in the country and would forward its comments on the various amendments to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

“The Commission also lauds the inclusion of two representatives from amongst children in the proposed National Council for Children, which, properly implemented, will promote the involvement of children in the decision-making process in matters affecting them,” he said.

He hopes that even though the child representatives are only two out of seven Council members, their views and concerns would be taken seriously, in line with Articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

“The Commission also hopes that the discretionary powers of the Minister to revoke the membership of the child representatives are clearly defined to avoid any misuse of the powers under Clause 4A(1) of the Bill,” he said.

However, Hasmy said that the Commission was also concerned with the omission of any specific provisions on child pornography.

“At present, there are no specific penal laws in Malaysia to cover holistically the issue of child pornography.

“In the light of Malaysia’s obligations under the CRC and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography 2000, the Commission urges the Government to consider introducing specific provisions under the Child Act or the Penal Code, to address the issue of child pornography,” he said.

Hasmy also said that while Suhakam welcomed the substitution of whipping punishments for male children with community service, it noted that caning was not abolished in primary and secondary schools.

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12,473 rape cases involving youths in Sabah

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah recorded 12,473 rape cases involving mostly teenagers between 2011 and June 2015.

Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Jainab Ahmad said based on police statistics, 11,667 of the victims were teenagers aged 13 to 18 while the rest were children.

“This indicates that teenagers accounted for 93.5 percent of the total number of rape cases. Police reports also show that there were 435 cases of abandoned babies in Sabah from 2011 to June 2015.

“Therefore, all parties should work together to find a solution to the problem and also prevent young people from being involved in social problems,” she said when launching the “Sebening Kasih, Sejuta Harapan; Melestari Keluarga Bahagia” programme organized by the Education Committee of the Sabah Women Advisory Council (MPWS) at the Industrial Training Institute in Sepanggar near here yesterday.

Also present was the programme’s organizing chairperson, Maimunah Suhaibul who is also chairperson of the MPWS Education Committee.

Jainab said apart from rape cases, teenagers were also plagued by the problem of pregnancy out of wedlock. According to the Ministry of Health, Sabah recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies, with 4,795 cases. “Of the total, eight per cent or 372 cases involved unwed mothers,” she said.

As such, Jainab said such programme should be continued to create awareness among teenagers and to prevent them from being involved in immoral activities.

As teenagers are important assets for the country, she said they needed to be given proper guidance and education so as to become responsible citizens.


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Education key to protecting children from sex abuse

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

THE number of cases involving sex with minors may not have reached alarming proportions in this country yet, but the upward trend in itself is worrying.

The cases that appear before the courts may reveal only a fraction of the actual incidents whereby minors are taken advantage of sexually, often in the so-called safe havens of their own homes.

Then there are the unresolved cases of violent sex against minors as well as the issue of child marriages.

We have to face the fact that attitudes towards sex are changing, especially among the young, because they are now exposed to many sources of information, both good and bad.

In our ever-connected world, there is easy access to pornography which gives a warped view of true sexuality and embolden the older perpetrators to take advantage of their young victims. Likewise, exposure also leads innocent minds to venture into danger zones.

And as our country drives towards being a fully developed nation, family time is highly compromised as parents caught up in the rat race have little time to properly raise their children. The proliferation of liberal views directly challenges traditional and cultural norms.

The adults need to wake up to the reality that the young people are probably more aware of sex issues than they were when they were in the same age bracket a generation ago.

In Nilai, near Seremban, parents are fuming over the questionnaire that was distributed to primary school pupils to gather information about their sexual activities.

Understandbly so, as the questionnaire seeks to find out from these young children details about their sexual activities, homosexual tendencies and multiple sexual partners, among other things.

But we must also not lose sight of the bigger picture.

While the approach and the target audience of the survey may be deemed inappropriate, there is a need for policy-makers to gather accurate information about the sexuality habits of our young.

If the rationale is explained, and the survey is conducted properly, we not only get a clearer picture but are also able to come up with appropriate measures to tackle this problem.

All questions can be framed to reach a certain target audience and we cannot assume that primary school children should not be asked anything about sex because the subject matter is taboo.

The Star Says.

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More unwed teen pregnancies

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

WORRYING: A lack of parental guidance is the root of the problem, says doctor.

KUALA LUMPUR: THE problem of teenagers becoming pregnant out of wedlock has reached worrying levels, with the nation recording  1,048 such cases from January to March last year.

This translates into an average of 12 teen pregnancies a day.

While the figures paint a grim picture, it is even more alarming considering that Malaysia is on track to record its highest number of teen pregnancies in four years.

Statistics by the state Health Department from its Teen Pregnancy Statistics Manual 2012 showed a spike in the number of maternal death among teens, with five cases recorded in the first three months last year, compared with 17 for the whole of 2012.

Data collected from adolescents who sought antenatal care in hospitals showed that 18,847 teen pregnancies were recorded in 2012, of whom 4,183 were unmarried.

Family Health Development division assistant deputy director Dr Nik Rubiah Nik Abdul Rashid said while there were many factors that contributed to unwanted teen pregnancy, lack of parental guidance was identified as the root of the problem.