KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — A coalition of eight gender equality groups denounced today the government’s attempt to gloss over the issue of child marriages in the country as a rarity.
Citing statistic from United Nations’ reports, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said there were as many as 15,000 Malaysians who were married off before the age of 19, contrary to the low figures given by the prime minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at a function in the US yesterday.
The group highlighted that there is an even more worrying trend in the country, especially in poorer states, to marry off young girls to their rapists.
“In addition, in East Malaysia where poverty is higher… many girls are still married off at a young age. Child marriages are definitely not rare in Malaysia,” JAG said in a statement.
National news agency Bernama has reported Rosmah as telling an international group at the Ford Foundation breakfast meeting yesterday that the incidence of child marriages was rare in Malaysia due to good education and low poverty rate.
“The enrolment of boys and girls in primary education is 99 per cent while about 70 per cent of girls are now enrolled in universities,” Rosmah was quoted as saying.
Citing the United Nations Human Rights Council’s resolution to end child marriage, the coalition urged the government to acknowledge the issue and give a more accurate picture on it.
In Malaysia, the legal minimum age for marriage under civil law for both genders is 18, with marriages involving those under this age requiring consent from the state mentri besar or chief minister.
Islamic laws here places the legal marrying age for Muslim boys and girls at 18 and 16, with girls aged below 16 allowed to be married off with the consent of the Shariah court.