Archive for the ‘Child Marriage.’ Category

Move to curb child marriage

Friday, January 17th, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The government has outlined seven objectives, 17 strategies and 58 programmes and actions to address issues of child marriage through a five-year strategic plan.

The strategic plan will tackle six major causes of underage marriage.

Among the six causes identified are poverty, lack or no access to reproductive health education, lack of access to education and society’s stigma that marriage is the best choice to solve problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the plan would not merely tackle the causes of underage marriage, but also indirectly help to overcome other social issues affecting families and children.

She said, for instance, the social stigma that child marriage was the best solution to address unwanted pregnancies must be removed.

“Underage marriage will have a profound effect on the health of a teenager and there are studies that found that girls aged between 15 and 19 who are pregnant face a higher risk of death during pregnancy or birth.

“We believe that if we can address the causes, the issue of child marriages can be eradicated, ” said Dr Wan Azizah, during the launch of the 16-page document at her ministry here.

The Women, Family and Community Development Minister said the societies need to change this mindset, as underage marriages would not solve problems, but in fact, could lead to even more troubles.

“In the past, underage marriages were practised because the socio-economic situation, education opportunities and the realities of life at that time made it normal.

“But today, education opportunities are better, technology is more advanced, the socio-economic outlook is more positive and there is higher awareness that children deserve the chance to expand their potential.

“With this, child marriages should not at all be the option or solution to any problems, ” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah also said the government would continue to publicise the existence of shelters for pregnant teens to prevent baby dumping cases.

“It is important that those who are pregnant but are not married do not dump their babies.

“We want them to be aware that there is a support system for them and that child marriage is not the solution, ” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah added that among the initiatives in the plan was strengthening the existing socio-economic and outreach support programmes, increase the minimum marriage age to 18 for girls as well as providing self reproductive health services that were children-friendly.

She said a steering committee spearheaded by Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and participated by all agencies would be set up to monitor the implementation of the plan.


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Wait until adulthood, young advised

Friday, October 4th, 2019
TAWAU: Chairlady of Tawau Branch Planning Association, Yvonne Ching, said the young should live responsible healthy lifestyles and stay away from intimate relationships until they are adult and ready to marry and start a family.

Her advice is in view of the baby dumping cases which have become a growing concern in Malaysia at a “Dance Baby Dance” campaign held by the association at St. Patrick’s Secondary School Hall here recently.
It was reported recently that 1,010 babies were dumped or abandoned soon after birth, mainly by young unwed mothers from 2010 till May 2019. Sixty-four per cent of these babies were dumped or abandoned in toilets, garbage areas, drains or among bushes.
They were found dead or died soon after in hospitals. Others were handed over to the Welfare Department for subsequent adoption. Babies that were fortunate enough to live bore the stigma of being illegitimate.

The Sabah Family Planning Association has taken up this concern and has been organising different awareness campaigns over the past few years. Kota Kinabalu, Lahad Datu and Tawau branches have successfully organized “Run Baby Run”  campaigns successfully. The targeted participants were secondary school students and young working adults.
This year, Sabah Family Planning Association Tawau branch organised a “Dance Baby Dance” instead of a run to add a new twist to the awareness campaign with the participation of more than 200 participants.
Yvonne presented the alarming statistics of baby dumping and gruesome pictures of dead babies in the campaign.

Everyone enjoyed the vigorous fit exercises led by three different teams of voluntary instructors from Power Muscle Gym, V Fit Studio and D Ultimate Studio.
Tawau Family Planning Association hopes the Tawau community will continue to give similar support in future and help to drive home the message that babies should be born into loving families that will welcome them and bring them up to be good and responsible people.

She also expressed gratitude to all who showed their strong support and kindly rendered help in different ways.
By: Christy Chok

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Sabah to focus on ending child marriages

Friday, July 5th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Law and Native Affairs Ministry, which is committed to end child marriage in Sabah by setting 18 as the minimum age, has embarked on a State Action Plan with relevant stakeholders.
Assistant Law and Native Affairs Minister, Jannie Lasimbang, said the Ministry will form a taskforce to discuss legal amendments, oversee the development and implementation of an action plan and continue to strategise on the issue.
“This is a multi-stakeholders, inter-ministerial matter and we will continue consulting and obtaining commitment and the required support from all parties,” she said, following a three-day workshop at Lintas Platinum Hotel, here. It was jointly organised by the Ministry and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Key stakeholders discussed proposed legal reforms, map current interventions, learn from regional and global trends and best practices to address child marriage, and develop an action plan with next steps and responsibilities included. These stakeholders comprised policymakers, government officials, judiciary officers, and civil society organizations.

“Children and youth should be given the right to a childhood, a time before the busy start. They should not be thinking about household matters,” said Nur Mashitah Matusin, 17, a Girl Guide from SMK Agama Kota Kinabalu.
“It is not fair for a youth to carry the heavy responsibility of being a wife and mother,” she said.
Unicef Deputy Representative in Malaysia, Radoslaw Rzehak, said the children have spoken, and people must listen.
“We need to end child marriage urgently. Child marriage robs a child, not only of their childhood, but also of their future.

“Unicef is committed to support the implementation of the Sabah state action plan and will continue to extend its technical expertise and support to the Ministry and other stakeholders.
“Sabah is showing the way in making sure that without exceptions, no child is married before 18. This is a significant gift for every child on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “
The seminar was attended by participants from the government, judiciary, and civil society organisations including Assistant Education and Innovation Minister, Assistant Health and Wellbeing Minister, Norazlinah Arif, Law and Native Affairs Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Haji Faimin Kamin, Native Court judges, Syariah Court, as well as representatives from Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, State Attorney-General Chamber, Suhakam, Sabah Law Society, child rights and community-based NGOs, and Girl Guides Association of Malaysia

.By: Larry Ralon.

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Protect girls, end child marriages

Sunday, October 28th, 2018
(Stock image for illustration purposes) In July, the media reported the marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old man. Reason for marriage? To “protect and provide”, as she was uneducated and came from a poor family. Similar reasons were cited for the marriage of a 15-year-girl to a 44-year-old father of two last month.

WHAT a historic year this has been for women and girls. The international #MeToo movement catalysed the long-awaited reckoning of powerful male figures guilty of sexual crimes.

At home, this coincided with the election of a new government in May, and the country’s first woman deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Her stewardship of the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry signals the present government’s determination to prioritise issues about women.

But the initial optimism waned with a spate of reports on underage marriages. In July, the media reported the marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old man. Reason for marriage? To “protect and provide”, as she was uneducated and came from a poor family. Similar reasons were cited for the marriage of a 15-year-girl to a 44-year-old father of two last month.

Although these may seem like isolated incidents, approximately 82,000 child marriages have been recorded in Malaysia up to 2010. The reasons for the prevalence of the practice are unclear.

Malaysians are unequivocal in their disapproval of the practice. The issue has been the subject of intense debate on all platforms. The public wants a firm response from lawmakers.

But what do Malaysian youth think about child marriages? In a recent survey conducted with hundreds of Form 4 students in 10 schools in Taiping and Kuala Lumpur, most of the male and female respondents disagreed that it was acceptable for girls to be married before the age of 18.

Female respondents said marriage would “prevent them from achieving their full potential” — an opinion echoed by their male counterparts.

In the same study, respondents agreed that delaying marriage for the sake of career advancement was acceptable. This shows that the respondents reject child marriages and are aware that it limits their life choices.

Policymakers, activists and concerned citizens have renewed their call to raise the minimum age of marriage across all states, especially for Muslims. For Muslims, marriages with persons under 16 years old are permitted with approval from the syariah court. For non-Muslims, the consent of the chief minister of the state is required, except in cases of customary marriages conducted within the indigenous communities.

Opponents of the move to raise the minimum age argue that such reforms would contravene religious teachings. Such an interpretation is dangerous and misleading. Compounding the problem, Malaysia’s dual legislative system (civil and syariah) places Muslim family and marriage laws under the purview of each state. A uniform amendment to each state syariah enactment would require the consent of each of the country’s nine sultans, as well as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The minimum age of marriage is different under the civil and syariah laws, with the age for males set at 18 and females at 16. Why does such disparity exist? Is it for the benefit of males over females, from the standpoint of education and labour markets? These are questions that merit further scrutiny alongside solutions to the issue.

In this historic year for Malaysia, this practice has blighted the country’s goal to become a global example for women’s empowerment.

By M. Niaz AsadullahWan Farihah Ahmad Fahmy.

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No change in marriage age

Sunday, October 7th, 2018
Kota Kinabalu: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (pic) said the State Cabinet has agreed to retain the current legal marriage age of 16 for females and 18 for men.

The decision was made unanimously by the State Cabinet after a discussion with information and explanation provided by Sabah Mufti Datuk Bongsu Aziz Jaafar, over the latter’s recent suggestion that the age be lowered to 14 for females and 16 for men.

“The mufti explained that the statement was his personal opinion as a religious figure but not a Fatwa,” he said, after chairing a meeting with the State Action Council (MTN), here, Thursday.

He also said that those below that age should seek special permission from the Syariah Court to get married.

Children, he said, mature at an early age and are exposed to sexual matters much earlier and it is better to regulate and allow for marriage to take place at a young age.

Bongsu, however, did say that the most important aspect is a need to tighten the existing standard operating procedure on marriage involving underage children.

Shafie said Bongsu also held the view that the minimum age limit could be raised to 18 but there should be a choice in certain circumstances, in terms of custom and culture in some places in the State.

Bongsu’s suggestion was heavily criticised including by political figures and non-governmental organisations.

Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin took to Twitter to express his displeasure over the proposal, saying it was “madness” while Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim also echoed the same sentiment.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had said recently that the Federal Government is in the process of raising the minimum marriage age to 18.

Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, was quoted as saying that a paper would be prepared by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department and her Ministry to raise the marriage age for Muslims.

This, she said, was to consider the best interest of the child. Since then, several muftis had offered differing views over the matter.

On MTN, Shafie said development projects in the State, especially federal projects, should be monitored with the cooperation of the State Government.

by Ricardo Unto.

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Finish studies, not marriage: UNICEF

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018


Marianne Clark with Shafie during the courtesy call yesterday

KOTA KINABALU: Children should be given the opportunity to finish secondary education rather than engaging in marriage.

Maintaining 18 as the minimum age of marriage, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to Malaysia Marianne Clark Hattingh said legislation alone was not enough.

The move, she said, should also be backed by other measures including support and education on the effects of child marriage particularly on girls.

“(We need) to ensure young people can finish secondary education, sexual reproductive health education and also make communities and families aware of the adverse effects on child marriage – on girl child especially.

“There should also be a social protection system to target children vulnerable to dropping out of school or to child marriage so that marriage is not seen as a solution for teenage pregnancies or poverty,” she said.

She was speaking to reporters after paying a courtesy call to Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal at his office here yesterday.

The issue of child marriage had been making headlines recently particularly following the Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu Aziz Jaafar’s proposal for the minimum age of marriage for Muslims to be lowered to 14 and 16 for girls and boys respectively.

Shafie had stated that the government will consider all expert opinions and that the Law and Native Affairs Minister, former Shariah court judge Datuk Aidi Moktar will evaluate every opinion before deciding on the final minimum age limit.

According to Marianne, it was among the issues brought to the discussion with Shafie, who was receptive to the matter.

“He was very receptive to that; he has, as you know, expressed the need to study the issue and to come up with solutions so we’re willing to support that process,” she disclosed.

Other priorities, she said, were issues of undocumented children, facilitating birth registration, access to education especially for remote and indigenous people of Sabah as well as inclusive education for children with disabilities.


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Lower marital age regressive, exploitative

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) categorically opposes the recent statement by the Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar that the marriageable age of Muslims in Sabah be lowered to 14 for girls and 16 for boys.

Such a proposal is regressive, exploitative, and destructive to the future of a child, it said in a statement Wednesday.

“Malaysia, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 17th February 1995 (CRC), is obliged to take all available measures to make sure that children are protected, and their rights are respected and upheld. The CRC is an international treaty that recognises the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of eighteen years old. The CRC reflects the new vision of a child, that they are neither the property of their parents nor are they the helpless objects of charity.”

“They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. In this respect children have rights to physical protection, food, education, and health care which are essential and appropriate for their development into adulthood. They should not be getting married and having babies when they themselves are juveniles and are still vulnerable, and in need of physical, mental, and emotional nurturing.”

Dominic Ghani, the Chairman of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the SLS stated, “We believe and acknowledge that child marriages are not merely confined to the Muslim community but occur in the native communities as well.

Both the Islamic authorities and native customary heads would be wise to ensure that the respective religious texts / customary rights are to be progressively interpreted and to exercise their discretion cautiously until there is legislative intervention to ensure a minimum age of 18.”

“Only those beneficial practices which are in the best interest of all segments of humanity should be encouraged and observed. We therefore believe that the issue of child marriages involves a spectrum of interplay between a responsible government, removal of archaic policies detrimental to society at large and acceptance of the moral issues impacting or affecting upon our youths today.”

He further stated that “child marriages were a practice during the medieval era or dark ages (between the 5th and 15th century) and had existed then partly due to the fact that the life expectancy of an individual was generally less than 40 years of age due to war, disease, and famine. Now children should be given the freedom of choice and the right to decide who they want to marry when they reach the age of maturity.”

“Legally speaking, if they are not allowed to work, drive, or vote at 14, they should not be allowed to get married too.”

In response to the suggestion that a marriage is required to legitimise children born out of wedlock, the SLS is of the view that more emphasis needs to be placed on reproductive education and family planning as well advocating the health risks associated with having children below the age of 18.

The SLS therefore welcomes the recent statement by the Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Dr. Wan Ismail that the Federal Government “will raise the

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Sabah to combat child marriage

Friday, July 6th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah agrees with the federal government’s proposal to increase the marrying age of girls from 16 to 18 in a bid to combat child marriage.

For starters, Sabah school counsellors will be equipped in August this year with a module to deter child marriages State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wong said this proposal which came following the controversial marriage between an 11-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man, was necessary.

He said the Sabah Women’s Advisory Council has drawn up an interactive module to all counsellors in schools to educate students on the negative impact of child marriage.

“Schools can make use of this module (which was launched in March this year), to create more awareness among students on the issue,” Wong said.

“The module will be used by any facilitator with the aim of decreasing or avoiding more underage girls getting married.”

He hopes this module could help to reduce child marriage in the country.

“Programmes relating to this issue is expected to start in August with the collaboration with the Sabah Education Department,” he said yesterday.

Wong said this when winding up debates at the state legislative assembly sitting here. Earlier in the sitting, he also said that the state government will have discussions with the federal government on ways to reduce medicine costs in Sabah.

Wong said he supports Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s aim to increase the minimum marriage age from 16 to 18.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister had said that laws should be amended to make it illegal for any girl or boy to get married before they turned 18.

“My ministry agrees completely with the statement by the Women, Family and Community Development Minister to amend Islamic family and civil law and set the minimum age at 18 for girls in the country,” Wong said.

His ministry was formerly known as the Community Development and Consumer Affairs Ministry but was changed when Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over Putrajaya after the May 9 polls.

Child marriages are in the spotlight again after it was reported that a 41-year-old imam from Gua Musang, Kelantan took an 11-year-old Thai girl as his third wife.

Dr Wan Azizah had proposed that the minimum age of marriage for girls in the country be increased during the coming Parliament sitting.

The current minimum age of marriage is 16 for Muslim girls and 18 for Muslim boys, with exceptions made to marry at a much younger age as long as consent is obtained from the Islamic courts.

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Marriage of 11-year-old girl illegal – Dr Wan Azizah

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The marriage between an 11-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man in Kelantan is illegal, according to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She said this was because the marriage had not received the consent of the Syariah court as the girl was under the minimum legal age for marriage.

“The marriage is not legal and they must be separated,” she told a press conference after officiating an Aidilfitri open house with 2,000 asnaf orphans organised by Insaf Malaysia at the Setiawangsa Mini Stadium here on Sunday.

Present were Setiawangsa Member of Parliament Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Insaf Malaysia president Ishak Abdul Kadir.

According to the Islamic Family Law Enactment which applies in all states, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for a male and 16 for a female. Those under the legal minimum age will only be permitted for marriage if they get the consent of the Syariah court and their parents.

Child marriage issue once again came into the spotlight after the news of a 41-year-old man who took a girl 30 years younger than him as his third wife went viral on social media, drawing flak from various parties since Friday.

Initial investigations by the Kelantan Welfare Department found that the marriage took place in Golok, Thailand and the girl’s parents were said to be Thai nationals.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said her ministry’s officials were still unable to locate the groom.


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Ban child marriage in Malaysia, NGOs tell Govt.

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Children’s rights groups and activists from all over the country are calling for a ban on child marriage in Malaysia.

The Child Rights Civil Society Organisations Group (CSCG) said in a statement Sunday that child marriage was totally unacceptable anywhere in the world.

“No exceptions. It is not in the best interests of a child whose rights to health, education and protection are likely to be jeopardised as the child’s focus shifts from completing school to domestic duties and parenthood,” said the group.

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 the issue.

“We hope that Deputy Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) will meet with child rights NGOs to address critical child protection issues,” it said.

This came following the recent marriage involving an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old Malaysian man, who already has two wives and six children in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

The CSCG said such a situation was not acceptable and against the basic principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Malaysia is a signatory.

The group said as a party, Malaysia has to take effective and appropriate measures to abolish traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.

“We ask the Pakatan Harapan Government to urgently do a complete review on child development and protection support systems which has more often than not failed our children.

“We urge the Government to work with and listen to NGOs as we exist to complement and support the Government to address serious gaps in the implementation of policies and laws for the protection of our children, both citizens and non-citizens,” the group said.

The group members comprise Sabah Women’s Action-Resources Group (SAWO), PACOS Trust, Sabah (Partners of Community Organisation), Childline Malaysia, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Yayasan Chow Kit, ARAM Foundation, Malaysian Advocates for Child Health (MACH), PUAKPayung , Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF), Geutanyoe Foundation and Projek Layang Layang.

By Stephanie Lee.

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