PETALING JAYA: The Government must have the courage to do what is right in order to ban underage marriage, said Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail (pic).
He said that although it was not realistic to expect everyone to agree on the need to outlaw underage marriage, the Government is expected to show its moral conscience and disallow the practice.
Commenting on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s statement that the Government will draw up a strict standard operating procedure (SOP) for the approval of underage marriage under the syariah court, Razali said he respected the wisdom of the Minister.
“I know how complicated and sensitive his job is, in trying to bridge civil laws with syariah laws and with what has been practised over so many years, as well as resistance which he is encountering on the ground,” said Razali.
Mujahid, who made the announcement on the SOP in Parliament yesterday, said the SOP was a temporary measure and the long term aim should be to “come to a point where child marriages will be banned”.
Razali said Suhakam advocated that the minimum age for marriage should be 18.
“I respect what the Minister is trying to do, let’s hope that the waiting period for the actual law (banning child marriages) will be short,” Razali said.
The G25 group of eminent Malays founding member Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin said the Government’s move to draw up the SOP should be lauded as there is an urgent need for a standard approach by syariah courts when faced with such applications, which are currently considered on a case-by-case basis.
Noor Farida said while many applications involve a couple under 18 applying to get married as the girl got pregnant, some cases involve elements of grooming and paedophilia and a very wide gap in the age of the girl and the man.
“We welcome this temporary measure but I hope that eventually the Government will ban underage marriage for both Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Noor Farida said underage marriage could be banned under one of three civil laws, namely the Penal Code, Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 or the Child Act 2001.
The respective law will however need to be amended for the ban to take effect.
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