Sex with children

The law needs to work with itself to protect underage girls.

TWO events that took place within two days of each other last month exemplify Malaysia’s official attitude regarding the welfare of girls. On Nov 19, the Penang High Court overturned a suspended sentence that the Sessions Court had handed down to  a 22-year-old electrician for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl. In sentencing the man to 10 years and six months’ imprisonment, High Court judge Datuk Seri Zakaria Sam said that young girls needed to be protected from manipulators like that man. He further said: “In statutory rape, consent is irrelevant. A female under the age of 16 is deemed incapable of giving consent under the law”.  And, in case there is any doubt over whether or not it is all right to have sex with an underage girl (it is not), the government is taking steps to amend the law to make custodial sentences mandatory for all convicted statutory rapists.

Two days before that, in Kedah, 12-year-old Nur Fazira Saad married her boyfriend, 19-year-old Mohd Fahmi Mohamed Alias. As a general rule, the minimum age for non-Muslims to marry is 18 years for both males and females, while the minimum age for Muslims is 18 for males and 16 for females. If a non-Muslim girl who is not yet 18 but not younger than 16 wanted to marry, she would need the permission of the chief minister or federal territories minister.

A Muslim girl under 16 may marry with the consent of the Syariah Court; and, unlike non-Muslim girls, there is no limit as to how young a Muslim girl can be.

In the case of Nur Fazira, the Kulim Syariah Court granted its approval on Nov 7, making the marriage legal under the law.

NST Editorial.

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