The Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) stands with our sister organisations, Sisters in Islam (SIS) and the All Women’s Action Society (Awam) in unequivocally condemning child marriage.
It is heartbreaking that as the rest of the world celebrated Children’s Day on 20 November, we are still grappling with legal technicalities which leave our girl children vulnerable to sexual abuse and socioeconomic deprivation for the rest of their lives.
A problem of this magnitude requires the collective response of all arms of government, at both federal and state levels: Parliament and state legislative assemblies, the executive (namely the cabinet and the various state executive councils), and the judiciary, in particular the Sharia Court judges.
We must tighten measures, and we must tighten them collectively.
To this end, we urge the federal government to take the lead. We call upon our lawmakers in Parliament to enact federal legislation banning child marriage in line with Article 75 of our Federal Constitution, which provides for federal law to prevail in the event of any inconsistency with state law.
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We call upon members of the state legislative assemblies to look into enacting or amending the necessary laws at the state level.
We call upon our cabinet ministers and state executive councillors across all states to take special policy and practice measures prioritising this issue within their respective jurisdictions.
We plead with our leaders to set aside political differences in the name of the welfare and wellbeing of our children.
We urge judges of Sharia courts to exercise the existing power and discretion vested in them in the best interests of the child at all times, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Malaysia has ratified.
We appreciate Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s assurance that the federal government will continue to push for child marriage to be banned in all states. We support the strategy to engage the Conference of Rulers and the National Islamic Affairs Council and urge that these measures be taken without delay and outside the regular course of business where necessary.
Perhaps some of these strategies are already part of the national strategic plan to tackle the issue of child marriage, which is supposedly at its final stage. If so, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development must expedite its circulation and ensure that all stakeholders are consulted.
The future and the human rights of our children are at stake. It is not a matter of compromise or negotiation. Let’s act together, and let’s act now.