Curbing underage nuptials

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IPOH: In a move to curb child marriages, the state government is thinking about raising the marriage age.

State women development, family and social welfare committee chairman Datuk Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Noordin said the suggestion to increase the age limit would be taken into consideration.

She said the state government would hold discussions with several relevant agencies prior to making a decision.

The agencies include the state Islamic Religious, Judiciary and Education departments.

“Underage marriages not only need to be addressed via legislation. We need to look into the aspects of advocacy, education, health, family institutions, as well as socioeconomic support,” she said in her winding-up speech at the state assembly yesterday.

Dr Wan Norashikin said several factors that contributed to child marriages have been identified, including the current law that allows the practice.

The other factors include poverty, the lack of sexual reproductive health education, parenting skills and access to education.

She said the minimum marriage age for Muslims in Perak is 18 for men and 16 for women under the Islamic Family Law Enactment.

In certain cases and circumstances, there is some leeway if the applicant obtains permission from a Syariah court judge.

For non-Muslims, she said it is subject to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act. The marriage age was 18 for girls but the law allows girls aged 16 to marry with the consent of the Mentri Besar.

“Everyone from leaders to the grassroots must be concerned, as well as support the government’s effort to tackle the issue of underage marriage for a better future of our children,” said Dr Wan Norashikin.

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