LETTER | Sisters in Islam (SIS) calls upon the Malaysian government to take proactive measures in making necessary legal amendments and rolling out necessary ground initiatives to end child marriage for all children in Malaysia.
We echo the fatwa, recently issued by Al-Azhar (university in Egypt) which states that “marriage in Islam is based on the consent by both parties, particularly the young woman. As such, consent requires the young woman to have reached the age of maturity and reason, so that her consent is validly given.”
The fatwa explicitly states that “the age of 18 marks the state at which a woman can validly express her will to marry.”
According to the fatwa, the age of 18 “guarantees that she can enjoy her fundamental rights to childhood, education and the capacity to assume responsibility of marriage. Before that age, she will not have had access to those necessary rights and is not able to assume the responsibility of marriage; and God would not impose on his servants an obligation that they cannot fulfil.”
In a meeting with the state leaders in October last year, our Prime Minister had issued a directive for all states to raise the age of marriage to 18 years. While some such as Selangor, Penang and Sabah made efforts towards this goal, many states remain adamant in allowing child marriages in their jurisdictions and still consider that exceptions are needed.
We emphasise that allowing exceptions not only allows loopholes for abuse of the law, it also reflects a weak prioritization of a child's education by the government and have been proven not to reduce child marriage numbers such as in Bangladesh.
We urgently call for the Pakatan Harapan government to make good of their manifesto promise to end child marriage in Malaysia and table the raising of age in the current parliamentary seating.
Portraying a strong parliamentary stand on this issue will not only underline the message that child marriage is unacceptable at a policy level but will also contribute to the narrative that the priorities of a child should be education, that is urgently needed at the grassroots level for all children in Malaysia.
SISTERS IN ISLAM is a non-governmental organisation working towards advancing the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia within the framework of Islam, universal human rights principles, constitutional guarantees, as well as the lived realities and experiences of women.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.