KUALA LUMPUR: A Syarie lawyers’ association has agreed for a standard operating procedure (SOP) for child marriage under Syariah law but activists say the Government must have the political will to ban it.
Malaysia Syarie Lawyers Association president Musa Awang said he welcomed the Government’s decision to provide the SOP for underage marriage.
“However, the legal provisions for underage marriage fall under the jurisdiction of the state government and it will be up to the state whether to amend it,” he said.
Musa was responding to PAS vice-president Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah who said that imposing a blanket ban on child marriage contravened religious teachings.
Musa said that from his Islamic religious perspective, a child marriage is “halal” and one cannot forbid things that are “halal”.
“The Government needs to control child marriage and not ban it. The SOP is one solution to control it,” he said.
Activist and lawyer Siti Kasim argued that religion cannot be the basis for national law as it is open to many interpretations.
“It is not difficult to solve this problem if you have the political will. To me, the SOP is a cop out, unless you require a single approval point such as the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and make the conditions of approval onerous,” she said.
Citing an example, she said the condition could be a minimum age of 18 for marriage and the child showed full maturity including evidence of education beyond Form 6 and an understanding of contractual obligations.
Planned Parenthood regional director for South-East Asia Nora Murat said the matter is urgent as it impacts the lives of children and the Government can change the policy and ban child marriage completely.