Over 200 rally against child marriage

Danial Dzulkifly
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin joins a rally against child marriages in Bandar Sunway August 18 2018. — Picture by Abdul Razak Ghazali

PETALING JAYA, Aug 18 — Over 200 people marched peacefully outside a shopping centre here today to protest against child marriage.

The peaceful rally dubbed the "Walk the Talk to End Child Marriage” was co-organised by The Body Shop Malaysia, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL).

The protest also marked the launch of the group’s petition campaign to urge the government to make amendments to the law to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, with no exceptions, regardless of gender, faith and ethnicity.

WAO vice-president Meera Samanther said all stakeholders must work together to end child marriage.

“The fact that child marriage is rampant in our country means that we’re failing our children.

“This is not an issue for one community, race or religion to deal with. There are many who are attempting to cloud the issue by making it appear that way.

“But to truly tackle this issue and end child marriage, we must stand together to safeguard the childhood of all children in Malaysia,” she said in the group’s statement to the press.

Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, managing director of The Body Shop Malaysia, said that beyond legal reform, Malaysia must change public perception, achieve gender sensitisation, institute comprehensive sexuality education, and empower youths in order to completely end child marriage.

The group also called upon the government to ensure that marriage is not used as an instrument to legitimise and justify sexual crimes against children.

The petition, which started on Aug 1, has already collected almost 20,000 signatures.

The campaign will go on until September 30 before it is handed over to the Minister of Women and Family Development, Minister of religious affairs and the Minister of Law.

Among the laws that the group wants to be amended are the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Islamic Family Law, the Child Act 2001, the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, the Age of Majority Act, the Penal Code, the Shariah Criminal Offences Act, the Native Courts Enactment 1992 in Sabah, and various native customary laws in Sarawak.

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