Polygamist upset with govt move to raise minimum marriage age

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah

KOTA BARU: A 41-year-old rubber trader, who caused widespread outcry for marrying a Thai girl 30 years his junior, has expressed regret over the government’s plan to set the minimum marriage age for women to 18.

“My marriage has affected everyone and prompted the government to increase the minimum marriage (for women). I feel really bad,” he told the New Straits Times Press when contacted today.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail last month said the government would amend the Child Act 2016 and the Islamic Family Enactment to raise the minimum marriage age for women from 16 to 18.

This came after the couple’s marriage was exposed on June 18 when his second wife took to Facebook and posted about the couple’s solemnisation at a mosque in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south in Narathiwat province.

This has sparked an outrage among Malaysians, with many calling for action to be taken against the man and that the minimum legal marriage age to be increased in an effort to curb child marriages.

According to the Islamic Family Law Enactment, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for male and 16 for female.

The man was fined RM1,800 by Gua Musang Lower Syariah Court today for marrying without approval and also getting into a polygamous marriage without consent.

The child bride returned to Thailand earlier this month after “immense pressure from Malaysian media”, a senior Thai official was quoted as saying on Aug 11.

The 11-year-old, who is undergoing mental health counselling because of the intense level of attention, is believed to be the trader’s third wife.

“It has been almost two weeks since I saw her face and all I can do is look at our wedding picture whenever I miss my third wife,” the trader told NSTP.

He said his longing for his young wife, known only as Ayu, intensified today as neighbours celebrated Aidiladha with their loved ones.

“I spoke with her over the phone but I still miss her very much. All I have left are our pictures together, which I keep with me all the time,” he said.

The trader said the girl, who is currently under the care of the local social welfare department, was happy and in good health.

“My wife told me not to worry about her safety because her parents are staying close to her.

“I was also informed that her parents will bring her back to their hometown in Narathiwat today,” he said, adding that he has no plans to look for his young wife anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the controversial marriage has prompted the Narathiwat Islamic Religious Council (MAIN) to tighten regulations on marriages involving Malaysians, especially those in polygamous relationships.

“After this, couples must provide to the kadi (judge) a letter from their respective religious authorities allowing a person to marry a polygamist before the (marriage) ceremony can be held.

“This is to ensure that problems do not arise after the marriage,” the source said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd