Democratic Action Party (DAP) Secretary Kasthuri Patto is calling for the minimum age of marriage to be set at 18 years old across the board, she said in a statement issued on Saturday (June 23).
Patto, who is also the MP for Batu Kawan in Penang, said she “look(s) forward to the Pakatan Harapan leadership to include cementing the age of marriage to minimum 18, with no exceptions for boys and girls regardless of race or religion”, The Star reported.
Though the legal age for marriage under civil law for both genders is 18 in Malaysia, girls can marry at 16 with permission of their state’s chief minister, while Islamic law sets a 16-year minimum age for girls and permits even earlier marriages with the permission of a Syriah court.
In 2010, a United Nations report showed that over 82,000 married women in the country were girls between the ages of 15 and 19.
For the same year, it was also revealed that nearly 15,000 girls below the age of 15 were in a marriage.
There were also a total of 2104 cases of child marriages recorded by the National Registration Department for 16-year-old non-Muslim girls between 2011 to September 2015.
680 of these girls married boys of the same age while shockingly, 1424 married men over the age of 21.
Patto is aiming to put a stop to these shocking statistics; and if Malaysia does indeed follow up with her proposal, they would be following other Muslim countries that have increased the age of marriage like Egypt and Algeria.
“Setting the marrying age to 18, with no exceptions, will be an outstanding and noble gesture to uphold the rights of children to grow with their dignities intact under a Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia)”, Patto added.
She pointed out that as a signatory of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysia has a “moral duty” to end child marriages. Furthermore, those marrying very young and unwillingly could face other adverse effects like health complications during pregnancies, uncompleted education, and being prone to domestic violence.
“A child who marries is a human rights violation as their freedom is compromised”, Patto said.