Opposition women MPs slam Rina Harun for refusing to ban child marriage

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Opposition MPs have called upon Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun to take concrete steps to protect children, instead of offering pretexts as to why the ministry has no plans to ban underage marriage.

Yusof Mat Isa

In a joint statement today, eight MPs and a senator including former women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said the ministry’s current stance was in direct opposition to efforts taken by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

“Efforts to protect and curb the exploitation of children need to start with legislative reforms that have already begun in two states — with the readiness of five more. Enough with the excuses and foiling past efforts.

“Furthermore, the National Strategic Plan initiated by Dr Wan Azizah integrated concrete action to amend the law to address the problem of underage marriage. The plan contained action programmes involving 61 agencies at the federal and state levels.

“The strategic blueprint covers Islamic family law, marriage and state customs, which fall under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution, through draft amendments to the Islamic Family Law Act 1984 (Act 303) which seeks to set the minimum age of marriage for women to 18 years,” read the statement.

It highlighted that in 2020, statistics showed that 445 school students stopped schooling in order to get married, comprising 411 female students and 34 male students.

“The minister should continue with previous efforts and consult with seven states that have not agreed to amend the relevant legislation, namely Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan,” it added

The other signatories of the statement were Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, Sekijang MP Natrah Ismail, Merbok MP Nor Azrina Surip @ Nurin Aina, Tangga Batu MP Rusnah Aluai, Hulu Selangor MP June Leow Hsiao Hui and Senator Fadhlina Sidek.

This was in response to a parliamentary reply by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry yesterday that said it had no plans to ban underage marriage, as there were other matters that needed to be addressed to curb the practice.

The ministry’s reply echoed an earlier statement given last December by Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Idris Ahmad, who said that the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) will not raise the legal marriage age for Muslims to 18, as most states rejected the proposal. – MMO