Groups up in arms over latest case of child marriage

PETALING JAYA: Human rights and civil society groups that focus on children have expressed their strongest objection to the latest case of a child marriage in Kelantan.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail reminded the government that child marriage was a human rights violation and such marriages were not a solution to poverty eradication.

He said if such practices were allowed to go on, parents could legally resort to selling their children, disguised in the form of a marriage, as a solution to poverty, and treating children as mere commodities.

“There is international consensus that child marriage perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty because girls married off for money or due to poverty often do not complete their education, which in turn severely limits their economic opportunities in the future,” he said in a statement.

The latest case involved a 15-year-old girl, who tied the knot with a 44-year-old People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) member, who is a father of two. The girl is the man’s second wife.

Her parents claimed that poverty drove them into giving their consent to their youngest daughter’s marriage with the man, who is 29 years her senior.

In July, it was reported that a 41-year-old father of six married a girl 30 years younger than him as his third wife.

He went to Golok, a border town in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, during Hari Raya to have the marriage solemnised with the 11-year-old Thai girl.

The girl is now under the protection of the Narathiwat provincial Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

In another case, a 15-year-old girl went missing, just two months after marrying a 30-year-old man. The girl was last seen after disembarking at the Pasir Mas train station to use the toilet where the couple were en route to Gua Musang.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) said the two cases of men marrying 15-year-old girls in Kelantan underscored the reality that girls have to pay for the government’s lack of political will to end child marriage.

“Child marriage dangerously af­fects the future of girls in our country,” SIS communications ma­­nager Majidah Hashim said in a statement.

“The ongoing trend of child marriage clearly shows that current stan­­dard operating procedures se­­vere­ly lacks the safeguards required to act in the child’s best interest and to protect their welfare.”

Majidah said the government must not hide behind the excuse that they are “powerless” to take immediate action.

Centre for a Better Tomorrow chief executive officer Ng Yeen Seen said no parents should be allowed to pawn their child’s future and rights away by consenting to an arranged marriage that could lead to rape or abuse of the child’s fundamental rights.

“If a child cannot vote at the age of 13 and 15, she is also incapable of consenting to sex and can also be raped in the act of consummation of the marriage,” said Ng.

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