PARLIAMENT | The Dewan Rakyat today was told that the notion that underage marriage is a way out of social problems and poverty is not a solution and that perception must be changed.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government would not compromise on matters pertaining to children and the protection of the rights of the group was a priority.
"In addition to the amendments of the law being undertaken, the government is implementing poverty eradication programmes and raising awareness of parents and guardians to ensure that children do not drop out of school until the age of 17.
"The ministry is adamant that children should be given the opportunity to develop their full potential in education. In this regard, the ministry will continue to work with all stakeholders towards the achievement of child protection goals," she said.
She was responding to Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) who wanted to know the efforts to tighten approvals for underage marriages and the government's willingness to amend the existing law to prevent any forms of underage marriages in the future during the question-and-answer session today.
Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the government also proposed to table the Bill on the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 (Act 303) and Act 164 latest by the second term of the Dewan Rakyat next year.
"For non-Muslim underage marriage, the memorandum of the Cabinet on the proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (Act 164) will be tabled in the Cabinet Meeting in 2019.
"These amendments will include the need to submit social reports, health reports and reports from the Royal Malaysian Police for the application of underage marriage under Act 164 which is headed by the Home Ministry," she said.
Wan Azizah said several states had taken proactive and creative steps in implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on this issue.
"For example in Kedah, besides having to submit a social report for underage couples who want to marry, they (the couples) also need to go to the Social Welfare Department (JKM) after their marriages for counselling sessions for monitoring purposes until they are 18 years old.
"Selangor too, which has also has an understanding with the state JKM, has ensured that the social report submitted for the application of underage marriages should take into account the background, education, socio-economic and living conditions of the children," she said.