Ban child marriages, raise legal age of marriage to 18, says Wanita MCA

PETALING JAYA: Raising the legal age of marriage to 18 nationwide is the only way to curb the issue of child marriages, says Wanita MCA.

Its chairman Datuk Heng Seai Kie said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s (KPWKM) proposal to solve the issue of underage marriages through “indirect approaches” is not the solution.

Heng also called on the ministry to heed Chief Syariah judge Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar’s call for the legal marriage age to be increased to 18.

“Wanita MCA applauds and echoes the views of the Chief Syariah judge who has voiced support for legislation to restrict underage marriages.

“Wanita MCA has championed this issue for many years, with the most recent statement issued on March 25, 2022 in response to KPWKM’s reply in Parliament that the government has no plans to ban child marriages.

“While KPWKM said that other indirect approaches will be adopted instead, the question is, aside from legislative amendments, what other methods can be more effective in curbing this issue?

“Hence, Wanita MCA implores all parties to act swiftly and push for a ban on child marriages, especially since even the Chief Syariah judge has given his input on the matter.

“By definition, those under 18 years of age are minors.

“Only the law can reliably put a lid on this issue. Hence, child marriage must be banned immediately, and the government should not postpone this issue any further, for the sake of Malaysia’s community development,” said Heng in a statement Friday (April 8).

In an Utusan Malaysia report on April 7, judge Mohd Na’im said the minimum age limit for marriage should be set at 18 years for both male and females, in an effort to curb underage marriages.

He raised four main factors which substantiate why a ban should be considered: legal, education, health, and social.

Heng said it is time for KPWKM to fulfil its responsibility of safeguarding the welfare of children and protecting them from physical and mental harm, because issues such as childbirth complications can be life-threatening, especially for pre-adolescents due to biological factors.

“Furthermore, risks of divorce, dropping out of school, domestic violence - these can all batter the empowerment plan for the next generation of women in Malaysia,” said Heng.

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