No change in marriage age

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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