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Move to end child marriages in Malaysia

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Sisters in Islam calls upon the Malaysian government to take proactive measures in making necessary legal amendments and rolling out necessary ground initiatives to end child marriages for all children in Malaysia, with no exceptions.

We echo the fatwa, recently issued by Al-Azhar, which states that “marriage in Islam is based on the consent by both parties, particularly the young woman. As such, consent requires the young women to have reached the age of maturity and reason, so that her consent is validly given.”

The fatwa explicitly states: “The age of 18 marks the state at which a woman can validly express her will to marry.”

According to the fatwa, the age of 18 “guarantees that she can enjoy her fundamental rights to a childhood, education and the capacity to assume responsibility of marriage. Before that age, she will not have had access to those necessary rights and is not able to assume the responsibility of marriage; and God would not impose on his servants an obligation that they cannot fulfill.”

In a meeting with chief ministers in October last year, our prime minister had issued a directive for all states to raise the age of marriage to 18. While some states such as Selangor, Penang and Sabah have made efforts towards this goal, many states remain adamant in allowing child marriages in their jurisdictions and still consider that exceptions are needed.

We emphasise that allowing exceptions not only allows loopholes for abuse of the law, it also reflects a weak prioritisation of a child’s education by the government and has been proven not to reduce the number of child marriagse such as in Bangladesh.

We urgently call for the Pakatan Harapan government to make good its manifesto promise to end child marriages in Malaysia and table an increase in the age in the current parliamentary seating.

Portraying a strong parliamentary stand on the issue of child marriage will not only underline the message that child marriages are unacceptable at a policy level, but will also contribute to the narrative that the priorities of a child should be education, which is so urgently needed at the grassroots level for all children of Malaysia.

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