END CHILD MARRIAGE
Only eighteen-year olds should be allowed to get married, says Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the United Nations special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.
Commenting on child marriage – which the UN describes as a form of human rights violation - Boer-Buquicchio says that Malaysia should set a clear minimum age for marriage at 18 in line with international standards, that applies to all existing legal framework.
Boer-Buquicchio says that Malaysia should set a clear minimum age for marriage at 18 in line with international standards, that applies to all existing legal framework
"It is time to be very firm on this. There should be no exceptions.”
Boer-Buquicchio says Malaysia should go so far as to do away with the existing relaxed law on child marriage, when delivering her preliminary report following an eight day fact-finding mission in Malaysia where she met with various government representatives, local authorities, NGOs and non-profits on child rights issues.
“I had some discussion with religious authorities. Those who I talked to are open minded. They tell me that it takes time.
“But his cannot be done little by little,” she emphasises. “The objective is to achieve it immediately,” adding that she was encouraged by the Selangor state government’s decision to raise the minimum legal marriage age for girls to 18.
Under the civil law, the legal age of marriage for non-Muslims is 18 although females aged 16 to 18 may marry with the consent of their state Chief Minister or Menteri Besar.
Whilst the Shariah law provides that girls may marry at 16 and boys at 18, However, the Shariah Court may grant permission to marry below those ages.
While recognising child marriage is closely linked with poverty and low levels of economic development, Boer-Buquicchio says it is also a worrying symptom of a patriarchal society.
“There is a prevailing patriarchal attitude in the country where girls and women are simply disposed off and used as a commodity, irrespective of what they feel or want."
Commenting on the government’s efforts to end child marriage, Boer-Buquicchio says there is political will to do so but it requires more concrete action.
The political will is there. But the question is how do you reach out to all entities of society to support that
“The political will is there. But the question is how do you reach out to all entities of society to support that?
“It can be done,” she insists. “Because that’s within the discretion of the government, in the sense that they can reach out to religious authorities and leaders who apply customary law.”
Between 2013 to 2017, a total of 5,362 under-18 marriage applications were submitted to the Shariah courts, according to data from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
For non-Muslim couples, 2,367 underage marriage applications were recorded for the same period.
The highest cases of child marriage, says Boer-Buquicchio were registered in Sabah, Sarawak in eastern Malaysia, and Kelantan in Peninsular Malaysia.
She adds that the Sabah Native Affairs office had granted 2,130 out of 2,191 applications by children aged 14 and 15 to wed between 2003 and 2017.