Wedlock is a padlock for child brides, says social activist

Voon Shiak Ni

KUCHING, March 30: Legislation to ban child marriage in Malaysia must be pushed forward for the sake of protecting young girls.

In making this call, social activist Voon Shiak Ni said without a law to protect young girls, the latter will be deprived of their first line of defence.

In a statement today, Voon said she was disheartened to note that Women, Family And Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun on March 22 in Parliament had announced that the government will not be banning child marriage in Malaysia.

Instead, efforts will be made to educate communities on the issue to eradicate incidents of child marriages including talks set up with the help of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia.

“I urged Rina to stop all the talk and rhetoric and get the work done to ban child marriage as soon as possible if the ministry is serious about protecting our young girls .

“Be aware and be mindful that a wedlock can be a padlock for a child bride. Child marriage will trap and deprive a child of not only of her childhood but also her future,” Voon said.

She asserted it is unjust and abusive to condone or permit child marriages when a child does not have the maturity and ability to comprehend nor give consent to a decision made by others for her.

For a child, Voon added, marriage may also mean ending her right to her childhood, education, her career, her future and most importantly her self-worth.

“A task force was formed four years ago with relevant bodies to discuss and cooperate with religious councils to examine and tighten the laws on child marriage following the public backlash and outrage of Malaysians on the news of an 11-year-old girl was to be married off by her parents to a 41-year-old man with two wives and five children in 2018 .

“What happened to the task force that was supposedly formed as announced by the ministry? It is shame that the they had not made any expected significant progress,” Voon said, adding that nothing can be achieved when there is a lack of political will to make it happen.

In Malaysia, the legal minimum age for marriage under civil law for boys and girls is 18.

However, girls can marry at 16-years-old with the permission of their respective State’s Chief Minister.

On the other hand, Islamic law allows marriage at an earlier age with the permission of the Shariah court though the minimum age set is also 16. — DayakDaily