Ahmad Syukri Yusuf, 22, was charged with statutory rape of a 14 year-old girl late last year. Instead of facing up to 30 years in jail and whipping for the offence, he later married the teenage victim under Islamic law, according to prosecutor Ahmad Fariz Abdul Hamid.
This has sparked outlash from rights groups, and calls for bans on child marriage and justice for victims of sexual abuse.
“It is very common for rapists to marry their survivors, especially when they are underage, to cover up their crime,” Kuala Lumpur-based Women’s Aid Organisation spokesperson Tan Heang Lee told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“There is usually a high risk in this kind of cases that these girls will be subject to a lifetime of sexual abuse. Her marriage is basically an extension to rape,” she added.
The prosecutor in a court in Kuching, Sarawak, ruled that the case was dropped after a marriage certificate was produced and the girl subsequently withdrew the complaint. Malaysian’s civil laws state the minimum age for marriage is 18, but under Sharia law, Islamic courts can grant permission to Muslims under 16, essentially allowing them to marry whilst still a child.
Ann Teo, vice-president of Sarawak Women for Women Society, opined that those who have been charged with rape must be prevented from marrying their victims: “There is usually a high risk in this kind of cases that these girls will be subject to a lifetime of sexual abuse.”
“Her marriage is basically an extension to rape,”
From the latest report from the United Nations, in 2010 the number of married women in Malaysia were girls aged between 15 to 19 was 82,000. In the same year, the country’s deputy minister for women revealed that close to 16,000 girls below 15 years old were married.
In the state of Kedah alone, underage marriage applications rose by 35% in two years to 2010; 90% of those marriages were for girls younger than 16 according to international organisation Girls Not Brides.
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