NGOs: Ban child marriages altogether


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 06 Apr 2017

Reports by NEVILLE SPYKERMAN, LOH FOON FOONG, M. MAGESWARI, AKIL YUNUS, GAN PEI LING, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM and RAHMAH GHAZALI

 
PETALING JAYA: Non-govern­mental organisations incensed by the remarks of Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya have called for an outright ban on child marriages.

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’

Other comments

"The Bill is something that’s long overdue, but we’re here now and it’s great everyone is getting behind it. For parents, the Bill is of utmost importance as it deals not only with criminals who prey on children in the “traditional” sense, but also brings the laws up to date on technological advancements, specifically the Internet. " - Harith Iskandar - Comedian

 " I think it has taken a while for the Bill to come to fruition because it used to be a shameful topic. Victims and their families felt very alone. I think what made a difference was a bunch of young journalists trying to raise awareness about this issue. It’s empowering to know we can create laws for the greater good if we put our minds and energy towards it." -  Marianne Tan Actress

"I hope this Bill will send a message to everyone who thinks child sexual grooming is OK. I’m happy children will now be protected, and if you in any way think it’s fine for an adult to convince children to have sex, you need to see a psychiatrist because you have a problem." - JJ Host and MC

"As a mother, I think nothing matters more than having a safe and healthy environment for our children. Seeing the Government and other sectors working together to pass the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 makes us parents feel less alone in the fight against child sex predators." -  Lisa Surihani - Actress and MPs Against Predators campaign ambassador

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