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.