It appears we will not be abolishing child marriages anytime soon.
Our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail just announced that the laws in Malaysia will be amended to “protect the interest” of people involved in child marriages, reported The Star.
Therefore, the amendments will make it compulsory for civil and Islamic marriages to submit a report from relevant agencies before the marriage is allowed to take place.
She was quoted as saying,
“For non-Muslim marriages, Cabinet papers to amend the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 will (be) tabled in Cabinet in 2019.”
“The amendments, among others, will include the requirements that social, health and police reports are submitted for application for underage marriages, which comes under the purview of the Home Ministry.”
Her statements above were in response to a question asked by Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin during the parliament meeting today (15 November 2018).
The Women, Family and Community Development Minister said that the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1954 for underage marriages will also be amended. She said that for Islamic marriages, all reports must be submitted to a Syariah Court judge.
As of now, she revealed that the government has made the approval for underage marriages even tougher because the procedures are controlled by the Home Ministry, Syariah and customary courts.
Adding on, Dr Wan Azizah explained that Syariah courts all over Malaysia have received the Syariah Judiciary Department’s standard operating procedure (SOP) for Muslim underage marriages on 23 July 2018.
She then continued,
“Under the SOP, the state Welfare Department and Health Department, and state police must submit a social, health and police report if a Syariah judge finds it necessary for consideration in an application for an underage marriage.”
Apart from that, she shared that the reports will contain information mentioned below:
- Applicant’s background
- Social status
- Education level
Dr Wan Azizah believes that the abovementioned information will help the Syariah judge make a decision that will protect the people involved in underage marriages.
Prior to this, the federal government had suggested that the minimum age for marriage should be fixed at 18 but, according to Dr Wan Azizah, only Selangor has changed the age required to marry to 18 years old.
Meanwhile, Melaka, Penang, Kedah, Johor and Sabah had only indicated their desire to change the minimum age for marriage to 18 years old.
That said, even though the federal government has reiterated several times that they don’t condone child marriages and they are looking into increasing the minimum age for marriage, it looks like child marriages are not going to be banned anytime soon.
[Update]: Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin has tweeted in defence of DPM Wan Azizah, saying that the earlier headline “Malaysia to allow child marriages to go on, but tighter enforcement” published by The Star Online was misleading and unfair. After all, Wan Azizah had indeed answered his question saying that Malaysia is moving towards banning child marriages. However, the laws cannot be amended yet and hence, stricter enforcement will be applied to those laws as of now. The headline has now been changed to “Malaysia to have tighter rules on child marriages”.
What do you think of the issue of child marriages in Malaysia? Let us know in the comments below!
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