PETALING JAYA: The government must take a firm stand on child marriage issues by criminalising the act and safeguarding the rights of children, says MCA Youth.
“The government must stand firm on this issue in order to safeguard the rights of children. Any weaknesses on the government’s part will be a big blow to Malaysia’s image and position on the international stage.
“The government should therefore immediately amend the Federal Constitution to criminalise child marriage, regardless of race and religion, and stop giving in to the contradictory state Enactments, to show the world our commitment and determination to safeguard the security and rights of minor children,” its chief Nicole Wong (pic) said in a statement on Monday (Feb 11).
Wong said this in reference to an incident, in which an 11-year-old girl had almost been married off to a man 10 years older than her.
The marriage was thwarted when Lifebridge Learning Centre director K. Sudhagaran Stanley Singh heard about his former student’s situation and alerted the police. After being advised by the authorities, the girl’s 46-year-old father agreed to postpone the marriage until the girl is old enough.
Wong also criticised Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh for their failure to defend the rights of children and protect minors.
“Why is Putrajaya still sleeping when certain states have already enacted laws prohibiting child marriages until a child has reached the minimum age of 18?
“Whether or not to resolve the issue – it all depends on the government’s will,” she said.
Wong also called on the ministry to take immediate measures to protect the 11-year-old by providing counselling and medical care.
“We also call on the Inspector General of Police to immediately initiate criminal investigations into the purported groom-to-be and the family of the girl,” she said.
Wong added that the frequent instances of child marriage, and the possibility of such cases going unreported, have resulted in Malaysia being perceived as a “backward nation” where the protection of children and human rights are concerned.
She also said if the government continued to ignore this issue, more “perverts will misuse marriages to sexually exploit children” especially those from destitute homes, adding that this will turn Malaysia into a haven for paedophiles.