Move to raise minimum age for marriage still under consideration, says Wan Azizah

Rohaniza Idris dan Veena Babulal

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is still considering whether it should raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 or allow for special exemptions.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said a study was being done to look into the legal and social implications if the minimum age of marriage was increased to 18 years-old.

“If there is a total ban and the restriction enforced and there happen to be cases of children or minors getting married, then the marriage could not be registered.”

“As of now, there is also no protection for children especially girls under the law,” she said while taking questions in Dewan Negara here today.

Senator Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah had asked the government how it planned to restrict marriages involving minors.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister said the government needed to take into account the number of social issues related to underage sex activities, including out-of-wedlock pregnancies and illegitimate babies.

She added that the government needed to consider these aspects before making a decision to raise the minimum age of marriage.

Meanwhile, on the Syariah Judiciary Department’s move to come up with a guidelines to restrict the approvals of underaged marriage, she said such measure was meant to protect the interest of the child.

“As of now, underaged marriages are allowed legally among Muslims and non-Muslims as well as in instances of customs-based marriages,” said Dr Wan Azizah.

She said tightening of the administrative process could also be considered for non-Muslims who partake in underaged marriages.

Dr Wan Azizah said her ministry was also planning a series of consultation with stakeholders on the need to raise minimum age for marriage.

She said the consultation would involve the Attorney-General’s Chambers' Syariah Judiciary Department and state Islamic Religious Councils for Muslims. Also taking part were representatives from Sabah and Sarawak Customs Councils and the Orang Asli Development Department.

The government has been pressured to enforce stricter laws following the incident where a 41-year-old Malaysian man married a 11-year-old Thai girl.

Sisters in Islam had reportedly affirmed that there was no minimum age for Muslims to marry.

It cited that the minimum age for the marriage of non-Muslims was 18 for boys and girls.

However, an exception to the rule can be made with the approval of the menteri besar and chief ministers.

For Muslims, the minimum age for marriage for boys is 18 years and 16 years for girls. The Syariah court, however, may approve the marriage of a child at any age. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd