PETALING JAYA: A coalition of women's groups has slammed Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for insisting that further investigation is needed in order to charge a 41-year-old Kelantanese man who married an 11-year-old Thai girl.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said the Deputy Prime Minister and Women, Family and Community Development Minister's failure to take swift action against the man showed a lack of political will.
"There must be no excuses for the authorities' failure to act," JAG said, adding that the mounting public evidence was more than sufficient to prosecute.
JAG reiterated Lawyers for Liberty's stance that the man's public confession that he had planned to marry the girl since she was seven years old was a clear indication of child sexual grooming, which would be an offence under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.
It said the man's second wife had also publicly shared that he had not been able to provide for their family, and as such, the marriage did not fulfil Section 23 of the Kelantanese Islamic Family Law Enactment 2002 as required by hukum Syarak (Islamic laws).
"The marriage certificate produced by the Thai authorities has been found to be fake," JAG added, calling for swift action to avoid further manipulation to validate the marriage.
JAG said child marriage was also a violation of international instruments that had been ratified by Malaysia particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
"This insistence on investigations which has gone on for over a month already clearly reflects a lack of political will to take action against the man and protect the 11-year-old child bride," it said.
JAG called for the girl to be immediately separated from the man as he posed a physical and emotional threat.
"Moreover, police reports made by the man’s second wife has fallen on deaf ears," it said.
"Should there be any signs of grooming, violations and abuse, the relevant ministries and departments must move swiftly to ensure that they are accordingly addressed and are not covered up, whether the marriage is deemed legal or not," it said.
On Wednesday (Aug 1), Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya lambasted Dr Wan Azizah for delaying action, saying that there was no excuse or complexity as the facts were clear that he sexually groomed the girl.
JAG is a coalition of 13 women’s rights organisations in Malaysia. It includes the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG), Perak Women for Women (PWW), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Sabah Women Action Resource Group (SAWO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).