Reports by NEVILLE SPYKERMAN, LOH FOON FOONG, M. MAGESWARI, AKIL YUNUS, GAN PEI LING, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM and RAHMAH GHAZALI
Women’s Centre for Change senior advocacy officer Melissa Akhir said child marriage was a customary practice – not a solution to rape.
Quoting research by Unicef and Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, she said the minimum age for marriage should be 18 “as children should be allowed to be children and allowed to finish secondary schooling.”
She said girls having sex and getting pregnant was a social issue and should be tackled in other ways.
Malaysian Paediatric Association executive member Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail said allowing rapists to marry their victims would only create opportunities for older men to rape young girls in order to marry them.
He said a politician might claim the marriage would be good for the community but this could lead to more rapes because it legitimises the act.
“We are worried about the repercussions of a statement by a politician regarded as a community leader. It is really shameful,” he said in response to Shabudin’s statement.
Shabudin had told the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday that child rape victims could marry their rapists as some nine-year-olds were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.
On the issue of banning child marriage, Dr Zulkifli said girls should be allowed to pursue their dreams rather than become somebody’s subservient wife.
Association of Women Lawyers president and child advocate Goh Siu Lin said there was enough statistical and medical data to show that child marriages were a harmful practice.
Besides violating a girl’s basic rights, Goh said, such marriages also exposed girls to medical risks such as HIV infection, death during childbirth, and serious medical conditions.
Goh said genuine and open dialogue would show how unacceptable the practice of child marriage was in a social as well as legal sense.
Syariah and civil lawyer Akbardin Abdul Kader said existing laws were sufficient to protect young Muslims in child marriages.
“The bride’s minimum age is 16 and the bridegroom’s is 18. If the girl is below 16, she must get permission from the Syariah lower court to get married,” he said.
Attorney-General’s Chambers sexual crime and domestic violence unit chief Nurul Huda Nuraini Mohd Nor said that in some cases, parents consented to child marriage because they were ashamed that their daughters had been raped.
She said both civil and Syariah laws had restrictions on child marriages and their application needed to be considered carefully.
The BBC also carried Shabudin’s controversial remarks in an article titled: Malaysia MP: ‘Ok for rape victims to marry their rapists’
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