Archive for the ‘Child Marriage.’ Category

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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Suhakam concerned that child marriage legalises paedophilia

Sunday, July 1st, 2018
PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is troubled that “possible paedophilia activity” can be legalised through child marriage.

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail also expressed his concern that child marriage will encourage sexual violence against children.

“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/victims,” said Razali in a statement on Sunday (July 1).

According to international standards, child marriage is defined as any marriage carried out below the age of 18.

In Malaysia, it is still legal for children below the age of 18 to be married under Islamic and civil laws.

Non-Muslim girls can marry as early as 16, provided they get the permission of the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar.

For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. But exceptions can be made for girls or boys to marry at a younger age as long as they obtain the Islamic courts’ consent.

Customary law sets the minimum age to get married for girls at 16 and 18 for boys. A parent or legal guardian may give their written consent for underage marriages.

“Suhakam does not think enough has been done to end child marriages in Malaysia and believes zero tolerance of child marriage must be enforced at every root of society,” said Razali.
Razali, on behalf of Suhakam, called on Syariah court judges and the authorities to stop child marriages.

“(They) must be held accountable for perpetuating this egregious practice,” he said.

Razali said that there is no justification to child marriage and the rights of the child must be protected.

“Suhakam also calls on the new government to take a principled position on this issue and to keep to its election promise to all Malaysians to set the legal minimum age of marriage to 18 for all persons,” he said.
Ending child marriage by 2030 is among the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that Malaysia has committed itself to.

“In the meantime, Suhakam recommends that the government and state religious bodies including the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) take active steps to inform the public about the detriments associated with underage marriages,” said Razali.

Razali also urged the Women, Children and Community Development Ministry to respond “more diligently” to the issue.
Razali’s comments come after news of a 41-year-old man marrying an 11-year-old girl.

The father of six took the girl as his third wife after he went to Golok, a border town in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, two weeks ago to have the marriage solemnised.

NGOs call for child marriage to be banned, criminalised

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) is calling for a ban on child marriage and for new laws to criminalise the act.

Its president, Professor Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh, said early marriages are a violation of human rights and the Convention on the Rights of a Child, of which Malaysia was a signatory.

“It is not sufficient to have laws allowing child marriage repealed. There must be laws that are put in place to prohibit and criminalise child marriage.

“Studies have shown that child marriage has devastating consequences especially for girls. Sadly, the problem is nothing new in Malaysia,” he said.

He said in 2010, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had revealed that there were close to 15,000 Malaysian girls in child marriages.

“The new government must take the initiative to come up with an action plan to protect Malaysian children especially girls from child marriage.

The National Human Rights Society (Hakam) is calling for a ban on child marriage and for new laws to criminalise the act. Pic by NSTP/ source from Social Media.

“The Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto included the introduction of a new law which sets 18 as the minimum age of marriage.

He urged the government to fulfil the pledge through the tabling of a law to eliminate child marriages at the coming parliament session.

“We also urge all Malaysians to contact their respective members of parliament to seek their commitment and support for the elimination of child marriages in Malaysia,” he added.

Meanwhile, Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) also called for immediate measures to be taken by the government to condemn child marriage through a legislative action.

“It’s appalling that this case has surfaced barely days after the ‘Girls Not Brides’ international conference held here, calling for a global ban on child marriage.

“This must be done by raising the marriageable age for all Malaysians, whether male or female, to 18-years-old, without exception.”

Muslim-majority countries that have raised the minimum age of marriage include Algeria (19 for both men and women), Bangladesh (18 for women and 21 for men), Morocco (18 for both men and women) and Turkey (which raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 for women).

The marriage of an 11-year-old girl as the third wife of a 41-year-old Malaysian man on June 18 had went viral on social media, causing an uproar among Malaysians

The online posting by the man’s second wife was accompanied by several pictures with a caption that read: “Selamat pengantin baru suamiku (congratulations on your wedding, my husband). Suami 41, Maduku 11 tahun (My husband 41, his wife 11-years-old).”


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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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