Social norms, poverty among factors

KOTA KINABALU: The social norms among parents in the State, who choose to marry their underage daughter when she gets pregnant as a solution to the problem, and also as a solution to poverty, were among factors looked at during the recent workshop on ending child marriage.

State Law and Native Affairs Assistant Minister Jannie Lasimbang (pic) said this was among at least seven drivers for Sabah that they looked at.

“Among them is the social norms which Sabah has the highest. There are many social norms in Sabah, like if the daughter is pregnant she must get married, because they (parents) think that is the only option.

“So because the guidance is not very clear at the Native Court, they will also try not to advise them otherwise.

“The other is poverty. There are many children who come from families that do not have or can’t even make ends meet, so they think it is a way out to marry their children, but it is not. They end up having more problems and the cycle continues.

“For example, one of the things we don’t see elsewhere, including at the national level, is undocumented children resulting from early marriages.

“Because they cannot get a marriage certificate as the Native Court has said people cannot marry below the age of 18, they still get married and have children but undocumented. So we have a cycle of issues here related to poverty and lack of documentation,” she told a press conference.

She said apart from that, there is lack of comprehensive sex education in school.

“We also do not have the law yet as, presently, the legal marriage age for girls is still 16 under the Syariah Law,” she said, adding the Ministry expects some reservations on the Syariah Law in implementing the legal marriage age at 18 for both male and female in Sabah.

“There is actually no age limit in the Native Court Enactment. But we at the Ministry will try to look at this as something that there will be of no exception, 18 will be the minimum age for marriage (for both male and female).

“We will work very hard to make sure this plan moves with co-operation from relevant ministries, departments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs),” she said, adding a task force to be formed will follow up on the proposed amendments to the law.

Aked whether the new legal marriage age will be accepted at the grassroots level, Jannie said a study done by Sabah DAP Women on 70 underage marriage cases showed all the underage girls involved regretted that they got married early.

“They said they should not have got married at that age. So, it is a very clear indication of people generally wanting to end child marriage,” she added.

On child marriage statistics in Sabah, Jannie said the Ministry was still trying to establish a baseline.

“We will try to find the best way to collect the figures from the various ministries concerned. Right now the Native Court does not have statistics on child marriage, but others like the Syariah Court does have certain figures. So we will try to compile all the figures.”

By: Larry Ralon.

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