Umno Youth: Less talk, more work on addressing child marriages

Reena Raj
Asyraf said continued debate on the matter would not result in any progress besides political grandstanding. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Authorities should take concrete measures to address the issue of child marriages in the country instead of continuing public debate on the matter, said Umno Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

The former deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Islamic affairs said this should start with obtaining comprehensive feedback on proposed measures as the matter involved both legal and religious factors.

“In issues like this, a holistic approach is the only answer. Every point of view must be taken into count to avoid any backlash,” he said after meeting with the party’s state Youth chiefs at PWTC today.

However, he refused to state if he was for or against child marriages and said it should be decided by a committee of experts.

This committee should include relevant stakeholders who would then scrutinise the issue from both a legal and religious standpoint while balancing these against current circumstances, he explained.

He said continued debate on the matter would not result in any progress besides political grandstanding.

Asyraf also urged all who may be involved to keep an open mind and to approach the matter with an eye on arriving at a solution agreeable to all.

Yesterday, Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa confirmed that his department has initiated discussions towards ending child marriages.

The Parti Amanah Negara vice-president said talks were ongoing with Shariah judges for a review of Islamic religious laws that currently allow minors to marry conditionally.

Controversy over child marriages in the country was renewed following public outrage over a 41-year-old Kelantanese man who recently took an 11-year-old Thai girl as his third wife.

In Malaysia, the legal age of marriage for non-Muslims is 18 for both genders under civil law.

However, girls aged 16 may be legally married if the state chief minister or mentri besar or in the case of the Federal Territories, its minister, authorises it by granting a licence. Non-Muslims below 16 cannot get married.

However, Shariah law does not have a minimum age for marriage. Muslim boys below 18 and girls below 16 can get married provided they get the consent of a Shariah judge.