Sisters in Islam (SIS) is concerned that the continued delay in amending laws to end child marriage comes at the expense of hundreds of children who continue to be exposed to this vulnerability.
As a country with ambitions of achieving high-income status, Malaysia simply cannot afford to prolong child marriage as it is a practice that perpetuates poverty and is counter-productive to the health and intellectual development and wellbeing of children.
As Malaysia is slated to have an ageing population in less than 10 years, we cannot afford to deprive any child from opportunities to achieve her highest potential for our country.
As such, while efforts by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to amend the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) 1984 (Act 303) to increase the marriageable among Muslims age to 18 are commendable, we are disappointed that seven states have expressed their objection to increasing the age of marriage in their states.
The seven states – Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan – must explain to the people why they insist on compromising the futures of children by insisting on continuing this practice.
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In June this year, the al-Azhar, considered by Sunni Muslims to be the highest authority of Islamic jurisprudence, issued a fatwa against child marriage.
The fatwa explicitly states that the age of 18 marks the stage at which a women can validly express her will to marry. The fatwa also states that marrying after the age of 18 will guarantee that she can enjoy her fundamental rights to childhood, education and the capacity to assume the responsibility of marriage.
Just last week, Indonesia became the latest Muslim-majority country to ban child marriage by raising the age of marriage in the country to 19. Other Muslim-majority countries that have banned child marriage are Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, Iraq and Jordan.
While we understand that marriage applications involving minors under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (Act 164) had also been tightened, adopting standard operating procedures still leaves loopholes that are prone to abuse.
As such, we reiterate our call that the minimum age of marriage must be raised to 18 for both boys and girls, Muslim and non-Muslims, with no exceptions.
This statement is in response to a recent article “Seven states against increasing minimum marriage age to 18” in the NST.