Sabah to combat child marriage

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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