DPM: Efforts underway to set minimum marriage age to 18

Farhana Syed Nokman

KUALA LUMPUR: Efforts are being taken by the government to set a minimum legal age for marriage to 18, said the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. This, she said, was to find a long term solution on the worrying issue of child marriages. Dr Wan Azizah said the move would be implemented with the involvement of ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious and legal affairs, the Home Ministry and state governments including Sabah and Sarawak. “As Malaysia has its own customs and culture by race and belief, negotiations will be held with relevant experts including children’s experts, cultural experts and syarie experts in setting this minimum age. “The initiative will involve laws such as the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984, the Islamic Family Law Enactment / Ordinance in the states, the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, the Native Court Enactment 1992 in Sabah and various indigenous custom laws in Sarawak,” she said during the question-and-answer session at the Dewan Rakyat here today. Dr Wan Azizah said existing laws such as the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 and the Islamic Family Law Enactment/Ordinance in states provided that the application for underage marriage should have the permission of a judicial syarie (for Muslims) and chief minister (for non-Muslims). Other relevant laws are the Native Courts Enactment 1992 in Sabah and various ethnic custom laws. “Based on the records from the Malaysian Shariah Justice Department (JKSM), for Muslim couples, a total of 5,362 under-18 marriage applications were recorded for 2013 to 2017. “For non-Muslim couples, 2,367 under-18 marriage applications were recorded for the same period, ” she said. Dr Wan Azizah also congratulated Selangor and Sarawak for a recent announcement on the setting of minimum marriage age to 18 and hoped that other state would follow suit. She was responding to a question by Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) who had asked the minister to state the statistics on marriages involving individuals under 18 and ways in which the law looks after the welfare of children and youths involved so that they were protected from exploitation. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd