Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the government’s decision to maintain the minimum age of marriage for Muslim girls at 16, saying Putrajaya is obliged under its commitment to various international treaties to do everything necessary to prevent child marriages.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said the definition of “children” is clearly laid out under Malaysia’s Age of Majority Act 1971 which states that anyone under the age of 18 is a minor.
“This is in line with the definition given under Article 1 of the Conventions on the Rights of Child (CRC) which Malaysia ratified in 1995,” he said.
Noting that Malaysia had also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) that same year, he said Putrajaya is duty bound to give effect to Article 16(2) on preventing child marriages.
Religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad had said in the Dewan Rakyat on Dec 16 that the minimum age of marriage for Muslims girls would be kept at 16.
“After considering the views of various states, the Jakim shariah law secretariat decided on Sept 22 that there is no necessity to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslim women,” he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
But Zaid said Putrajaya is obliged to implement all international treaties as stated in the Federal List under Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
“The government cannot shirk its obligation under international law by justifying that the issue of marriage of Muslim girls is within the exclusive powers of the state.
“By opting to use this excuse, the government is knowingly breaching Malaysia’s international obligation under Cedaw and CRC, which is an internationally wrongful act.”
Otherwise, he said, Putrajaya would have to amend the constitution to give itself the power to raise the minimum age of marriage for Muslim girls.