KOTA KINABALU: The de facto Law Minister in the Prime Minister's Department has assured that his ministry is working with all relevant parties to ban child marriage in Malaysia.
Datuk Liew Vui Keong said he regularly discusses the matter with Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and hoped that all parties involved, including religious bodies, could come to an understanding as soon as possible.
"We are looking at the various implications that may arise if we increase the minimum marriage age in Malaysia.
"We also have to take into consideration Islamic laws.
"In Sabah and Sarawak, there are also customary laws that allow children to get married with consent from their parents," he told reporters at the new Kota Kinabalu court complex on Thursday (Aug 9).
Liew said the Government's priority was to to ensure that the interest of the child is properly taken care of, and not abused.
"We won't allow paedophiles to take advantage of this loophole (in the law) to satisfy their own desires," he stressed.
Liew said he was sure that religious bodies also shared the Government's view to protect and prioritise the child's needs.
In Malaysia, it is still legal for children below the age of 18 to be married under Islamic and civil laws.
Non-Muslim girls can marry as early as 16, provided they get the permission of the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar.
For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. But exceptions can be made for girls or boys to marry at a younger age as long as they obtain the Islamic courts' consent.
The issue of child marriage in Malaysia became a hot topic again after reports of a 41-year-old local man marrying an 11-year-old Thai girl in Gua Musang, Kelantan, went viral last June.