PETALING JAYA: Wanita Pakatan Harapan has urged the Government to ban all child marriages, saying that such "unions" would only cause more problems and set a negative path on the development of children in the country.
In urging the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to review its steps to ban child marriages, its chief Zuraida Kamaruddin said that women NGOs observed that most of these marriages do not last, with the average being five years.
"This causes other problems to the young mothers who are forced to look after their kids, when they are not matured enough for such a huge responsibility," she said in a statement on Wednesday (July 11).
She said that children below 18 are given special protection under the Child Act 2001 that was enacted to look after their rights.
She said that amendments to the Act in 2016 were to strengthen protection for children.
She added that the legal institutions such as the Syariah Courts in every state should understand this aspiration and ensure that children are protected.
"Don't let issues such as these project Islam in a negative light, only because the Syariah Court allows it to happen," said Zuraida.
The Women, Family and Community Development Minister's political secretary Rodziah Ismail said they had set up a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the approval of underage marriages under the Syariah Court.
However, she stressed that the Pakatan Government remains committed to efforts in raising the minimum marriage age to 18.
The implementation of the SOP came following public outcry over the marriage between a 41-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl in Kelantan.
The Gua Musang Syariah Lower Court had fined the man RM1,800, who was charged with solemnising a marriage and committing polygamy without permission.
According to the Islamic Family Law Enactment, which applies in all states, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for a male and 16 for a female.
Those under the legal minimum age will only be permitted to get married if they get the consent of the Syariah Court and their parents.