KUALA LUMPUR,. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said it would not support the government’s proposal to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for child marriages instead of banning them outright.
Suhakam stressed that child marriage must be made a crime and noted that child brides, incapable of consenting to sex, could be raped in the act of consummating the marriage.
“Suhakam is disappointed that the Ministry of Women, Children and Community Development has failed to recognise these serious consequences and has continued to be ineffective in enforcing a minimum age for marriage at 18 despite the shocking numbers of child marriages in Malaysia,” Suhakam said in a statement.
“On the right to freedom of religion, Suhakam would like to point out that religious practices are subject to Article 11(5) of the Federal Constitution whereby any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality shall not be authorised.
“This means that with the political will, it is possible for child marriages to be criminalised at all levels in the country,” said the human rights commission.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who also holds the women’s portfolio, said Monday that the government would look into a standardised screening process for marriages involving minors, citing the need to uphold the sanctity of the Shariah Courts and the native courts in east Malaysia.
Under Islamic laws, the marriageable age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, but the Shariah courts hold the authority to give consent to those under the permitted age to get married. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims.
According to a paper by Penang Institute, 10,240 Muslims applied for child marriage between 2005 and 2015, while 7,719 marriage applications were made by non-Muslims between 2000 and 2014 for girls aged between 16 and 18.
Penang Institute said according to data by the Malaysian Shariah Judiciary Department (JKSM), Shariah judges approved 81 per cent of child marriage applications in 2015