The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has criticised the government’s proposal to devise a standard operating procedure to standardise screening processes for marriages involving minors.
"Child marriage is a complete violation of a child’s human rights," Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said in a statement. "The SOP will not be in the best interest of the child but will instead perpetuate and preserve child marriage in the country."
"Child marriage must be made a crime as it can be used to justify sex with a child.
"Child brides, incapable of consenting to sex, can also be raped in the consummation of the marriage."
He said Suhakam is disappointed that the Ministry of Women, Children and Community Development has failed to recognise these serious consequences and has continued to be ineffective in enforcing a minimum age for marriage at 18 despite the shocking numbers of child marriages in Malaysia.
He went on to point out that religious practices are subject to Article 11(5) of the Federal Constitution whereby any act contrary to any law relating to public order, public health or morality shall not be authorised.
“This means that with the political will, it is possible for child marriages to be criminalised at all levels in the country,” Razali said.
He called on the ministry to be steadfast in the protection of children’s rights, and for the government to abide by Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto to introduce a law that sets 18 as the minimum age of marriage.