MP wants government to set minimum age limit for marriages

BY KAMLES KUMAR
Teo Nie Ching suggested that a proper support system, such as simplifying the adoption process, would go much further curb the problem of throwaway babies from unwanted teen pregnancies. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Putrajaya has to set an age limit for marriages under the proposed Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, an Opposition lawmaker suggested today.

DAP’s Teo Nie Ching said there is a contradiction in the current legal system as under the civil law the minimum age for marriage is at 16 while under the new Bill, it defines children as below 18.

The Kulai MP added the new Bill also contradicts the Penal Code, which stipulates having sex with below 16 years old as statutory rape.

“I want to ask the minister, how do we reconcile and coordinate the Bill and laws for (child) marriage. It has come the time for us to fix the age for marriage,” Teo told the Dewan Rakyat when she was debating the Bill.

“We should work together to increase the marriage age. Do not be a hypocrite,” she added.

Under the current legal system, non-Muslims from the age of 16 to 18 can get married with the consent of the respective chief minister’s and Mentri Besar’s but the new Bill makes it illegal under Section 13 and 15, Teo explained.

Section 13 of the new Bill pertains to child grooming and is punishable with an imprisonment of up to five years and is liable for whipping

Section 15 meanwhile touches on physical sexual assault on a child which can be punished by an imprisonment of up to 20 years and also liable for whipping.

The DAP Assistant Publicity Secretary also pointed how under the Malaysian Islamic law, a child bride below 16 years old is allowed to marry with the consent of the Shariah court.

“What’s worst is that for Muslim girls, they can marry at any age even if they are 8 or 12 years old, they can get the permission from the Shariah Courts,” she said.

PAS’ Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff however rejected her proposal claiming that it was the right of Muslims girl’s to be married at any age.

“As Muslims, this is a guide from Allah...this is a human right, we Muslims don’t question it.

“I hope this matter is not brought up in discussion this issue, as marriages have a different situation compared to sexual crimes,” she explained.

The Malaysian legal minimum age for marriage under the civil law is 18 for both genders but can girl’s can marry at 16 with permission of the state’s chief minister or Mentri Besar.

Under the Shariah law, the Islamic law sets a minimum marriageable age for girls at 16 but can marry earlier if the Shariah Court consents.

Putrajaya tabled the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill last week and has received overwhelming support from both sides of the political divide.