Up to states to amend marriage age

Meeting the press: Dr Wan Azizah greeting the media as she arrives at the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday. — Bernama

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, said 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 along with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

“Based on feedback from engagement sessions, Jakim is preparing a draft to amend the law to amend the minimum marriage age for girls to 18,” she said when answering a question raised by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (PH-Ledang) during Minister’s Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

However, state enactments, including for minimum marriage age, could only be amended if they agreed, she said.

Currently, she said only Selangor had amended its state enactment while the Federal Territories were in the process of amending to raise the minimum marriage age.

Meanwhile, she said only five others, namely Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak, had agreed to amend their respective enactments.

She noted seven others had not agreed and these included Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan.

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

Dr Wan Azizah said her ministry would also table a draft on a national strategic plan to tackle underage marriages to the Cabinet by the end of this year.

She noted that underage marriages affected not only Muslims but also 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 this would be difficult.

Among the obstacles, she said, was that some underage marriages were done willingly with the consent of the couples’ parents.

Dr Wan Azizah also added that sexual grooming laws were more aimed towards preventing sexual crimes against underage victims and online grooming.

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