LABUAN: Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar (pic) has triggered a backlash with his proposal to have the minimum marriage age for Muslims lowered to 14 for females and 16 for males.
A lecturer and researcher at the Labuan International Campus of University Malaysia Sabah, Dr Romzi Ationg, said implementing the idea will jeopardise efforts to address social ills and immoral activities.
Poverty may be a small factor in the surge in marriages of underage girls but, undeniably, a big chunk was due to immoral activities, he said.
"The idea of lowering the marriage age to 14 clearly shows the ignorance of the parties involved on the importance of basic education at the early age," he told Bernama on Tuesday (Sept 25).
He said it could be a hasty decision amid the rising social ills and cases of immorality nationwide.
"The views expressed on the issue do not represent the opinions of the majority of the people in view of the alarming immorality issues involving underage girls," Dr Romzi said.
He cited the cases of many underage girls being forced to marry working adult men simply because they had become pregnant.
"The permission for underage girls to get married is very much likely to increase as the child marriages are not simply due to the pressure of poverty but largely due to uncontrollable immoral activities," he said.
Bernama also reported that the Ministry of Health on Monday (Sept 24) announced its opposition to the Sabah Mufti's proposal to lower the marriage age.
Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said this was because teens have not reached physical and psychological maturity at the age of 14.
“In terms of health, it is not advisable as these teenagers will go through pregnancy at a time when their uterus is not strong enough to sustain the baby and this is feared to be life-threatening to the mother and baby," explained Dr Lee, who is a medical specialist (cardiologist).
“Psychologically, they will face the challenges and pressure of running a household at a young age.
"They are still children. You expect a child to bring up another child?” he asked.
Bungsu had said that early marriage should be allowed because "children are now very mature and are prone to sex earlier."
His views were supported by Sabah PAS.
It was reported in The Star that State PAS commissioner Mohd Aminuddin Aling said on Monday (Sept 24) all parties should prioritise syarak (Islamic teachings) in discussing the legal marriage age.
He said PAS was concerned with the comments coming from some political leaders and netizens, which he claimed made fun of Sabah Mufti Bungsu’s statement.
“We believe the Sabah Mufti’s suggestion is rooted in religious knowledge and is credible.
He urged the government, policymakers and leaders to consider the views of mufti and ulama (religious scholars) when deciding on setting the legal marriage age.
Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin on Twitter had referred to Bungsu’s statement as “madness”, while Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion) Fuziah Salleh was reported as saying that she disagreed with lowering the legal marriage age.
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