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[16days_discussion] Fwd: Malaysia - Call to End Child Marriages

Radha Paudel rpaudel456 at
Wed Dec 26 10:39:27 EST 2012


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: WUNRN ListServe <list at>
Date: 26 December 2012 18:03
Subject: Malaysia - Call to End Child Marriages
To: WUNRN_ListServe at





By LIZ GOOCH - November 26, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The marriage of a 12-year-old Malaysian girl has
outraged advocates for children and women, who called Monday for a ban on
child marriage.

The girl, Nor Fazira Saad, married her boyfriend, Mohammad Fahmi Alias, 19,
on Nov. 17 and the groom’s family held a celebration last Saturday,
according to local news media reports.

In Malaysia<>,
a Muslim-majority country, the legal marrying age is 16 for Muslim girls
and 18 for Muslim men. However, they can marry before those ages with the
permission of their parents and the

For non-Muslims, the minimum legal age is 18, though a girl can marry as
young as 16 with permission from her state’s chief minister. Azmi bin Abdul
Rejab, a marriage registration officer at the Islamic religious office in
Kulim, a town in the northern state of Kedah, confirmed that the Shariah
court there had given Nor Fazira permission to marry.

“It is good that we are marrying early, rather than risk being in an
illicit relationship,” Mr. Mohammad Fahmi was quoted as saying by The Star
newspaper in its Sunday editions.

Nor Fazira told the newspaper that she had stopped attending school last
year but now planned to resume her studies, as her husband had encouraged
her to do so. The girl’s father, Saad Mustafa, supported the marriage,
telling the local news media that it was better for the couple to get
married than do something “improper.”

A report released this month by the United
Team Gender Theme Group found that in 2011, Malaysia’s Shariah
courts had approved 824 marriages involving Muslims in which at least one
party was younger than the legal age. The report did not look at marriages
involving non-Muslims. Researchers suspect that the overall number of
underage marriages is higher because not all couples who have taken part in
religious weddings register with the authorities.

Ratna Osman, the executive director of Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s
advocacy group in Kuala Lumpur, said that the 2000 census showed that 6,800
girls and 4,600 boys younger than 15 were married. The 2010 census did not
include similar data.

Ms. Ratna argued that the government should raise the minimum marriage age
for everyone to 18, rather than allow Shariah courts or state ministers to
make exceptions for younger children.

“How did the judge determine that a 12-year-old was ready for marriage?”
she asked. She noted that having sex with a 12-year-old girl who is not
one’s wife is considered statutory rape under Malaysian law.

“Yet once you do it under the name of marriage, she is no longer a minor?
Her body has suddenly transformed into an adult body?” Ms. Ratna said. “You
would be charged under the law on statutory rape but get permission from
the court and suddenly it’s O.K. to have sex with a 12-year-old.”

Sharmila Sekaran, chairwoman of Voice of the Children, a rights group in
Kuala Lumpur, also said the government should outlaw child marriage.

“This should not be happening regardless of the fact that the parents had
consented. I don’t think parents should be allowed to consent for children
the age of 12,” she said. “There has been research done which shows that
children at the age of 12 are not sufficiently mature to understand their
role within a marriage and certainly in terms of becoming parents; they
themselves are still children.”

Ms. Sharmila added that studies had found that young girls who become
pregnant and their babies faced greater health risks than older women.

But Nazri Aziz, the government minister responsible for legal affairs, said
the government had no plans to amend the law regarding the minimum legal
age of marriage “because it concerns Islamic law.”

He said the government could not pass any law that would be inconsistent
with Islamic law.

The United Nations report included Malaysian census data showing that in
2010, about 1.4 percent of married women, or more than 82,000, were 15 to
19, up from 1.2 percent, or about 53,000, in 2001.

The researchers interviewed six girls and one boy who married below the
legal age and found that their reasons for getting married included to
avoid premarital sex, which is forbidden under Islam; to avoid being
arrested for khalwat, an Islamic offense in which unmarried men and women
are found together in “close proximity”; coercion by family elders; and

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Radha Paudel
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