KOTA KINABALU, Sept 18 — Wanita MCA has lauded the move by Indonesia to increase the minimum age of marriage for women from 16 years to 19 years old, and urged Malaysia to follow suit.
Its national chairman Datuk Heng Seai Kie said that while Malaysia has failed to address the issue of child marriages, its neighbour Indonesia, as the most populous Muslim country in the world, has shown the world how progressive and serious it was to overcome the issues of child marriages.
“While child marriage controversy has fallen into oblivion in recent months due to the inactivity and apathy of the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah and her deputy in the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Hannah Yeoh to pursue this matter, the Pakatan government can salvage its sinking reputation if its wields the courage and boldness to table a Bill to outlaw child marriage and increase the legal marriage age to 18 years,” she said.
Heng said that it was encouraging that all factions in the Indonesian parliament had agreed to the amendment on September 16 this year, indicating that all political parties had set aside differences in political ideology in the matter to safeguard the interests of minors.
“Considering that child marriages in Gua Musang and Tumpat in Kelantan had stirred outrage and grabbed national headlines last year, in particular, Wanita MCA also urges the state government of Kelantan to amend their current state enactments to increase the legal marriage age to 18 years,” she said.
Heng said that Malaysia could overcome a number of social problems like sexual abuse, domestic violence, child grooming, paedophilia, pre-teen motherhood, poverty, unskilled workers and even health issues related to early childbirth by preventing child marriages.
She reminded the government that Malaysia was also signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which affirms that a child has an inherent right to life, health and education while Article 16(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) outrightly prohibits child marriage.
“Except when sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife by a marriage, Section 375(g) of the Penal Code reads that any male who has sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 years with or without her consent is deemed to have committed rape. Hence, the onus is on the government today to wait no longer and table a Bill to revise the legal age to wed,” she said.
In a meeting with the state leaders in October last year, our Prime Minister had issued a directive for all states to raise the age of marriage to 18 years.
While some such as Selangor, Penang and Sabah made efforts towards this goal, many states remain adamant in allowing child marriages in their jurisdictions and still consider that exceptions are needed.