By Malaysiakini, Dec 17, 2021
Sisters in Islam (SIS) has slammed Putrajaya for abandoning plans to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls to 18.
The group ticked off Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Idris Ahmad for insisting that the government will maintain the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls at 16.
“Is the government going to gamble the future of our children and young Malaysians by failing to take care of their welfare and allowing child marriages to continue?
“The government should guarantee the health, education, safety and welfare of all children and foster a Malaysian mentality that child marriages are irresponsible and will only ruin the future of children,” SIS said in a statement.
The NGO pointed out that several countries in the region, including Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – have raised the marriage age for girls.
Indonesia put an end to child marriages in 2019 and raised the minimum age for brides from 16 to 19.
Likewise, SIS said, several Asean countries have also taken similar measures, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore, which have set the marriage age at 18.
Thailand has a higher threshold age of 20, while Vietnam’s marriage age for females is 18 and for males, it is 20.
The priorities for girls should be…
“Idris’ statement shows that he has not read and is not sensitive towards the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1995 (Cedaw) and Convention on the Rights of the Child 1994 (CRC), which guarantee and protect the rights of women and children in Malaysia,” said the group.
SIS said the priorities for girls should be education, health and job opportunities in order to realise their full potential and ensure they can live better lives.
At present, it said, Malaysia is the worst regional performer in the Global Gender Gap Report 2021.
“Malaysia is ranked 112 out of 156 countries. At the same time, Malaysia is ranked last in Asean.
“Myanmar (109), Cambodia (103), Indonesia (99), Vietnam (87) have better positions than Malaysia.
“If Malaysia does not manage this issue properly, for example by failing to better address the problem of child marriages, Malaysia will be left far behind in trying to achieve gender equality and to close the gender gap in the global index,” it said.
SIS reminded the government of its responsibilities towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations General Assembly.
This includes ending discrimination against women and girls, including harmful practices such as child marriage.
Efforts to raise the marriage age to 18 were initiated under the National Strategy Plan in Handling the Causes of Child Marriage in January 2020 by the then Pakatan Harapan federal government.
However, it faced resistance from several states. Muslim marriages fall under the jurisdiction of the states and changes to the law require consent from their respective rulers.