“Child Marriage in Malaysia should be banned” says U.N rights expert

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A United Nations rights expert today said Malaysia should ban child marriage with immediate effect. This has come as a result that in July; a forty-four year old man married an 11-year-old girl.

Since May the Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed vowed that his government will raise the legal age of marriage to 18. This however had some mixed reactions with Muslim Leaders whom they state that with early marriage it provides an answer to social ills like premarital sex and pregnancies out  of wedlock.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the U.N. special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, urged Malaysian authorities to protect the rights of minors, particularly young girls

Married underage girls were at higher risk of domestic violence, and are often denied the chance to pursue an education, she told reporters. “By marrying them, you are denying these girls their basic human rights,” said de Boer-Buquicchio, who was on an eight-day visit to mostly-Muslim Malaysia. In Malaysia, the legal minimum age for marriage under civil law for both genders is 18. However, girls can marry at 16 with the permission of their state’s chief minister, while Islamic law sets a 16-year minimum age for girls and allows even earlier marriages with the permission of the sharia court. The U.N. official called on Malaysia to remove exemptions that allowed underage children to marry, saying “there can be no exceptions.”

More than 5,000 applications for marriages involving minors were made at the sharia court between 2013 and 2017, government statistics show. But many child marriages remained unreported, particularly among indigenous groups on Borneo, in Malaysia’s east, de Boer-Buquicchio said. “It is time to be firm,” she said, adding that Malaysia’s government should engage religious and customary leaders on the issue.

“The political will is there, but the question is how you can reach out to all the different entities.” Last year, Malaysia passed a law on sexual offences against children but did not criminalize child marriage.