KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 ― Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said today her ministry does not condone child marriages, adding that Malaysians should pursue their careers first before thinking about tying the knot.
The women, family and community development minister said before pursuing marriage, it was vital for an individual to complete his or her studies and embark on a career path.
“My ministry has always been against early marriage or child marriage as it curbs the mental, physical and psychological development of a child
“Let a child be a child and go through that phase before going to study and working because a good career is more important,” she said.
Rohani told reporters this after launching an awareness campaign, entitled “Girls Voices: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage” by the High Commission of Canada at a mall here.
She acknowledged that underaged marriages were allowed in the country, but said her ministry was strongly against it.
“Child marriage requires a lot of process and that includes getting the approval of the chief ministers in the respective states," she said.
The minister said girls below the age of 16 and boys below 18 are still considered children, adding that they made up 9.9 million of the country’s total population.
The Shariah Judiciary Department has previously stated there were about 600 applications for underage marriages in 2014, and that the Shariah courts have approved 74 per cent.
Commenting on this, Rohani said it was because the parents of the children wanted the marriages to go ahead.
"But my ministry and the government are clear about our call against child marriage," she said.
Rohani also advised couples not to wait too long to get married, saying that it could lead to complications when trying to conceive a baby.
"We need the population to increase and for that couples should not wait too long. A simple marriage will do if you are old enough and have a proper job," she said.
Last year, a social advocacy group, Joint Action Group for Gender Equality said that there were as many as 15,000 Malaysians who were married off before the age of 19.
The group also highlighted that in poorer states, young girls were even married off to their rapists.
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 place 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.