Posted by Alex Williams on October 15, 2013
In Malaysia, girls under the age of 16 aren’t allowed to drive a car, buy alcohol or cigarettes, go to mature-rated movies or go clubbing. Yet, despite these rights, Malaysian girls can get lawfully married, and potentially start their lives as mothers.
The Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department (JKSM) found that in 2012 there were 1,165 applications for marriage. Among those applications, the brides were often younger than the legal marrying age – 1,022 of them were approved by the Shariah courts.
As of May 2013, the JKSM received 600 marriage applications, and of them, 446 were approved.
Normally in Malaysia, the legal minimum marriage age is 18, but for Muslim girls it’s 16. Girls that are below 16 are allowed to marry through the approval of the Shariah court.
At the recent Human Rights Council, a United Nations resolution was adopted by Malaysia and some other 90 countries that would end child, early or forced marriage. Yet, despite this, the JKSM’s information shows that child marriage is on the rise in Malaysia.
Sister In Islam (SIS), a network of Muslim professional women promoting rights of women in Islam, was stunned to know that child marriage still exists in Malaysia.
“We stand by the UN findings that child marriage is harmful to children and girls, in particular, are vulnerable to abuse, health problems, difficulty in accessing education and loss of childhood and adolescence,” said SIS legal officer Katrina Mohd Sobri.
“We need to develop alternatives and more progressive options that will allow our young to achieve the fullest extent of their potentials.” said United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Malaysia programme adviser Saira Shameem.
“There is also a risk to the physical health of girls who marry and conceive too early. As a result, we have underaged girls in Malaysia today who die of maternal health complications during delivery,” she said.
“This is unacceptable, and efforts must be taken to provide genuine alternatives and life-saving choices to these young people.”
According to Islamic Development Malaysia Department (Jakim) Director-General Haji Othman Mustapha, getting married at an early age “is not forbidden in Islam but the marrying couple have to be mature enough to understand that with matrimony comes great responsibility.”