PETALING JAYA: Sisters in Islam (SIS) has called upon the Pakatan Harapan government to urgently end child marriage in the country and to table a Bill to raise the age in the current parliamentary sitting.
The NGO said portraying a strong parliamentary stand on the issue would underline the fact that child marriage was unacceptable at policy level, while emphasing the importance of children getting an education.
They said that in a meeting with Chief Ministers in October last year, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had issued a directive for all states to raise the age of marriage to 18.
“While some states such as Selangor, Penang and Sabah have made efforts towards this goal, many states remain adamant in allowing child marriage in their jurisdictions, and still consider that exceptions are needed," SIS said in a statement on Friday (July 5).
“We emphasise that allowing exceptions not only allows loopholes for abuse of law, it also reflects a weak prioritisation of a child's education by the government and have been proven not to reduce numbers of child marriage such as in Bangladesh,” said SIS.
It pointed out that ending child marriage was in Pakatan’s election manifesto.
SIS cited a recent fatwa by the Al-Azhar university in Egypt which stated that “the age of 18 marks the state at which a woman can validly express her will to marry.”
In November last year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said laws governing child marriages would be tightened.
She said the amendments would cover both civil and Islamic marriages, and make it a requirement for relevant agencies to submit reports before such marriages were allowed.
The amendments would be tabled in Parliament by the middle of this year, she said.