KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 ? Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has reiterated her stance to raise minimum age to marriage to 18 years, amid backlash over her remark on the second child bride case in Kelantan.
The women, family and community development minister clarified that her recent remark on a 15-year-old “consenting” to marrying a 44-year-old man was just a “descriptive statement” based on the child bride’s explanation.
“I wish to reiterate that I am against child marriages and do not condone it. The best interest of the child must always be considered,” the deputy prime minister said in a statement.
“What I said was just a descriptive statement of what the child explained to my officers.
“Marriage should not be used as a way out of poverty,” she added.
The Pandan MP said she had chaired a meeting on September 13, where among others it was agreed that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and her ministry will prepare a paper to raise the marriage age for Muslims.
“This paper will then be presented to the Mesyuarat Menteri Besar dan Ketua Menteri (Meeting of Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers) to garner support from the states to raise the legal minimum age.
“Selangor’s move to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 should be emulated by other states,” she said.
Dr Wan Azizah added that a Cabinet paper is also being prepared to raise the minimum age for non-Muslims as well.
In addition, for customary marriages, she said respective customary heads will be informed of the dangers of underage marriages to the health and safety of the child.
“Amending laws is only part of the solution. A holistic approach must include education, welfare nets, poverty eradication and support systems.
“The protection and rights of children is of paramount importance to me and I will not compromise on that matter,” she said.
On Wednesday, Dr Wan Azizah had said that the findings made by Social Welfare Department officers who met the family, the marriage was allegedly based on a “mutual consent” between the minor and the 44-year-old man, triggering backlash from the public.
She had previously said the federal government does not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the latest case of the child bride in Kelantan.