Curb child mar­riages

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

IN CON­JUNC­TION with this year’s Univer­sal Chil­dren’s Day cel­e­bra­tions, the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Malaysia (Suhakam) en­dorses fully the pro­posal by the Min­istry of Women, Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment to in­crease the min­i­mum age for mar­riage to 18 for Mus­lim girls in the coun­try. This com­plies with the Child Act 2001, which de­fines chil­dren as those be­low the age of 18.

Ac­cord­ing to Unicef, child mar­riage is de­fined as a for­mal mar­riage or in­for­mal union be­fore the age of 18; and Suhakam re­it­er­ates that child mar­riage of­ten com­pro­mises a girl’s de­vel­op­ment by re­sult­ing in early preg­nancy, in­ter­rupt­ing her ed­u­ca­tion, lim­it­ing her op­por­tu­ni­ties for ca­reer ad­vance­ment and plac­ing her at in­creased risk of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Although child mar­riages do af­fect boys, it is to a lesser ex­tent.

In terms of the ex­ist­ing pa­ram­e­ters to pro­tect chil­dren, Suhakam is trou­bled that the present law leaves chil­dren vul­ner­a­ble to forced mar­riages and ex­ploita­tion, par­tic­u­larly where the al­leged child sex­ual per­pe­tra­tor or rapist uses mar­riage to pro­tect them­selves from pros­e­cu­tion.

Suhakam stresses that end­ing child mar­riage by 2030 is also among the tar­gets set out in the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals that Malaysia has com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing and im­ple­ment­ing.

While the government en­sures stricter im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law, Suhakam is of the view that it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to in­flu­ence the mind­sets, be­liefs and at­ti­tudes of all Malaysians to­wards end­ing child mar­riages for a last­ing change.

Tan Sri Razali Ismail Chair­man The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Malaysia

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