Seven states still against 18 as minimum marriage age for Muslim girls

KUALA LUMPUR: While Federal laws may be amended to raise the minimum age of marriage for Muslim girls to 18, it is still up to the state to follow suit, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the draft to amend the Family Islamic Law 1984 was being finalised by the Syariah and Civil Law Technical Committee and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

"Based on the feedback from engagement sessions, Jakim is preparing a draft to amend the law to amend the minimum marriage age for girls to 18.

"The enactments (state ordinance) and minimum marriage age can only be amended if the states agree to the amendments," she said when answering a question raised by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (PH-Ledang) during Minister's Question Time in Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Nov 19).

Currently, she said that only Selangor had amended its state enactment, while in the Federal Territories, it was in the process of being amended.

She added that only five states, namely Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak, had agreed to the enactments.

She noted that seven other states, namely Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan, did not agree to amend their related laws.

She said that there was no need to amend the laws for the minimum age of marriage for non-Muslims as the registration of marriage was 18 for both males and females.

Besides amending the law, she said that her ministry would also table a draft on a national strategic plan to tackle underage marriages before the Cabinet by the end of this year.

She said that underage marriages were not limited only to Muslims but also included customary marriages in Sabah and Sarawak.

Asked by Syed Ibrahim if sexual grooming laws could be used to prevent underage marriages, Dr Wan Azizah said there was difficulty in using such laws to prevent such marriages.

Among the obstacles was that some underage marriages were done willingly with the consent of the couples' parents.

She added that sexual grooming laws were more aimed at preventing sexual crimes against underage victims and online grooming.

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