Curb child marriages
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