Home Civil Society Voices Child bride falls between the cracks for lack of political will

Child bride falls between the cracks for lack of political will

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The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is outraged that Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is the Deputy Prime Minister and Women, Family and Community Development Minister, still insists that further investigation is needed to gather evidence in order to charge the 41-year-old Kelantanese man who married an 11-year-old Thai girl.

This insistence on investigations, which have gone on for over a month already, clearly reflects a lack of political will to take action against the man and protect the 11-year-old child bride. The mounting public evidence below is, in fact, more than sufficient, and there must be no excuses for the authorities’ failure to act:

  • The Kelantanese man himself has publicly confessed that he had planned to marry the girl since she was seven years old. This clearly points to child sexual grooming which is an offence under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act (SOAC) 2017.
  • The ‘marriage’ does not fulfil the Kelantanese Islamic Family Law Enactment 2002 Section 23 which, is required by Hukum Syarak. The second wife of the man has publicly shared that the man has not been able to provide for their family and has unfairly favoured his third ‘wife’ over his previous wives.
  • The marriage certificate produced by the Thai authorities has been found to be fake. Swift action must be taken to ensure that further manipulation does not happen to validate the marriage.
  • Child marriages violates international instruments that have been ratified by Malaysia particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

JAG is extremely concerned over the current situation where the girl remains exposed to the man and the results of the medical tests that the 11-year-old girl has undergone. Should there be any signs of grooming, violations and abuse, the relevant ministries and departments must move swiftly to ensure that they are accordingly addressed and are not covered up, whether the marriage is deemed legal or not.

Moreover, police reports made by the man’s second wife have fallen on deaf ears. It is important that the authorities act in consideration of all affected parties.

JAG demands that due to the severity of the allegations, the 11-year-old girl must be immediately separated from the man as he poses a physical and emotional threat to her. Regardless of her nationality, we must act in the child’s best interest in all steps of this case.

Endorsed by the following JAG member organisations:

1. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
2. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
3. Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG)
4. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
5. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
6. Sabah Women Action Resource Group (Sawo)
7. Sisters in Islam (Sis)
8. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
9. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

JAG is a coalition of 13 women’s rights organisations in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak. Since 1985, it has been advocating for gender equality and social justice in Malaysia within a feminist framework.

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