PETALING JAYA: There is support all around for Selangor Islamic Religious Council’s (Mais) decision to seek an amendment to the laws so that the legal marriageable age for girls is raised from 16 to 18.
The call came after an in-depth discussion on the matter, involving Mais, Selangor Syariah Judiciary Department, Selangor Islamic Religious Department and other relevant parties such as academics, health experts and NGOs, following a decree by Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.
Wanita Pakatan Harapan chief Zuraida Kamaruddin said the wing fully supported the call, adding that the commitment shown by all parties should be praised.
“This collective commitment opens up a new paradigm in the efforts to empower society, especially Muslims, to become more progressive,” she said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Mais called for tighter restrictions on underage marriage and for an amendment to the Islamic Family Law (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 to increase the age limit.
Zuraida also commended Sultan Sharafuddin’s concerns on the issue of child marriages.
She said children should be given room to grow in a conducive environment.
“Parents, especially those from the lower income group, should not take the easy way out by marrying off their children due to poverty,” she said.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) described the call for amendment to the laws as “a step in the right direction” and that it was in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the worldwide call to end child marriages.
SIS however called for a “total ban” in child marriages.
“As exceptions are still allowed, child marriages may still take place.
“In this sense, we strongly advocate a total ban as a more concrete long-term solution to the issue,” said SIS.
Separately, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) slammed Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s failure to take swift action against the 41-year-old man, who married a child, as a lack of political will.
“There must be no excuse for the failure to act by the authorities,” JAG said, adding that the mounting public evidence was sufficient for prosecution.
JAG pointed out that the man’s public confession that he had planned to marry the girl since she was seven was a “clear indication” of child sexual grooming, an offence under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.
It said the man’s second wife has also publicly shared that he has not been able to provide for their family, thus the marriage does not fulfil Section 23 of the Kelantanese Islamic Family Law Enactment 2002, as required by Hukum Syarak.
JAG’s statements came in support of Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya who hit out at Dr Wan Azizah for delaying action.
On Wednesday, Latheefa said that there was no excuse nor complexity as the facts were clear that the man had sexually groomed the girl.