PETALING JAYA: Fearful of another underage marriage making headlines, Malaysians have started a petition calling for the end of marriages under the age of 18.
The Change.org petition, stressing on the need of law reforms to protect children, began on Sunday (July 1), and is quickly gaining traction with over 1,500 signatures as of 5pm Monday (July 2).
Started by Jeffrey Seow, the petition cited several high-profile underage marriage cases that have made headlines over the years.
"In 2010, the Malaysian Deputy Minister for Women revealed that nearly 16,000 girls below the age of 15 were in a marriage," the petition said.
It was initiated in response to news that a 41-year-old father of six had secretly taken a girl 30 years younger as his third wife.
It also highlighted the 2013 case where a 40-year-old alleged rapist had married his 13-year-old victim.
The petition said at the time, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) began a similar petition calling for the end of child marriages, but it did not gain traction.
In Malaysia, the legal minimum age for marriage under civil law for both genders is 18, but girls can marry at 16 with the permission of the chief minister.
However, Islamic law sets a 16-year minimum age for girls and permits marriages below that age with the permission of the Syariah Courts.
The petition said the previous government had failed to reform its laws, namely the Child Act 2001 and the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, to make child marriages illegal, and now the onus is on the Pakatan Harapan Government to review the laws.
"Statutes need to be looked at to prevent child marriage and to criminalise the actions of adults who perpetrate this. We are living in 2018, not 1818, and certainly not 632 CE," it said.
Did you find this article insightful?