SOP a short-term measure

KUALA LUMPUR: As a short-term measure, a standard operating procedure is being drafted to tighten provisions relating to child marriage.

The Government intends to ban the practice eventually.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa says the draft is being prepared and should be ready by the end of this month.

“This is just a temporary measure and the long term is the part that is more important.

“It should come to a point where child marriage will be banned,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Mujahid, however, admitted that there were challenges in terms of technicalities in a bid to ban child marriage.

“It is not just like saying, okay, let’s go and ban it. We need to amend the laws and there are a lot of stakeholders.

“There are the syariah laws at state level and the civil law which allows for such marriages through permission from the syariah court or mentri besar, which I hope to see a total stop and ban to it.

“This is the first time we will be having this so please give us some time.

“The end result is we are hoping to end child marriage.

“Once the federal (govt) has come up with, perhaps, an amendment to the law, we hope the states would follow it, no point having a law that is only followed at federal level,” he said.

“At the moment, we are just taking a proactive step to come up with a strict SOP first,” he added.

He also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to be transparent in providing data and statistics on child marriage.

The issue of child marriage became a hot topic after a 41-year-old man married a girl in Narathiwat, Thailand.

The Syariah Court in Gua Musang imposed a RM1,800 fine on the man after he pleaded guilty to marrying the underage child without consent from the court and committing polygamy without the consent and agreement of his two other wives.

In 2016, the then Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim told Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto in a written reply that the number of applications for Muslim child marriage between 2005 and 2015 was 10,240. The figure for the approved applications was not provided.

The annual average of applications for Muslim child marriage recorded by the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia between 2005 and 2010 was 849, while the annual average for 2011 to 2015 was 1,029, Rohani said.

Non-Muslim child marriages recorded by the National Registration Department between 2011 and September 2015 stood at 2,104 with girls aged between 16 and 18, Rohani said.

Most of these teenage girls (68%, or 1,424) were married off to men aged 21 and above, while the rest (32% or 680) found themselves tying the knot with those closer to their age of 18 to 21.

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