Sabah govt sets up task force to look into raising age of marriage to 18

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 03 Jul 2019

Jannie (left) and Rhezak holding up artwork with messages against child marriage.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has formed a task force to oversee the amendment of laws to raise the minimum marriage age to 18, reaffirming its commitment to end child marriage in the state.

Sabah Assistant Law and Native Affairs Minister Jannie Lasimbang said the task force would look into drafting laws that would be tentatively presented during the upcoming state legislative assembly sitting in August.

Jannie, who is Kapayan assemblyman and Sabah DAP Wanita chief, said the task force would also be implementing action plans discussed during a three-day workshop involving policymakers, judiciary officers and civil society organisations.

"This is a multi-stakeholder, inter-ministerial matter, and we will continue consulting and obtaining commitment and the required support from all parties," she said.

According to Jannie, some of the key drivers of child marriage in Sabah were law and policies, parenting and access to education, as well as lack of comprehensive sex education in schools.

One of the social problems in Sabah caused by child marriage, for example, was the birth of undocumented children whose young parents did not obtain marriage certificates.

"It is clear in the law that you can register your child, even if you're not married," said Jannie.

She said much work needed to be done on the ground to raise awareness about the laws.

She added that stakeholders should actively engage young people in the fight to end child marriage.

Her sentiment was echoed by Unicef deputy representative in Malaysia, Radoslaw Rhezak, who agreed that it was important to listen to young people and their suggestions on how to efficiently reach out to youths to promote behavioural change.

Rhezak said amending the law was just the beginning in ending child marriage, as the real challenge lay in changing mindsets – a process that could take a long time.

"Law (legal reform) itself is not the goal. The goal is eliminating child marriage in Sabah.

"How do we change the minds of people to believe that waiting after 18 (for marriage) is better for the children, economy and the culture?

"Also, what kind of support do we give to young people, especially girls who get pregnant? They need support," he said.

Rhezak added that stakeholders needed to work together to reduce teenage pregnancy, which was one of the key drivers of child marriage.

The three-day workshop took place at Lintas Premium Hotel from Monday (July 1) to Wednesday (July 3).
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