Malaysia fails to criminalise child marriage

family law

Lawmakers in Malaysia have rejected a proposal to criminalise child marriage.

While the country’s parliament debated a bill which dealt with sexual crimes against children, one member of the opposition suggested an amendment which would make underage marriage a crime. However this idea was met with severe resistance from the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) party.

Shabudin Yahaya, who represents the northern town of Tasek Gelugor for the government, was among those who spoke out against the proposed change. He claimed that girls reach puberty when they are between nine and 12 years old and at that time “their body is already akin to them being 18 years old”. As a result, “physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry” he insisted.

The MP also said he could see “nothing wrong” with a girl marrying her rapist in order to avoid a “bleak future”.

Unsurprisingly, these remarks have been widely condemned throughout traditional and social media with some people calling for his removal as an MP. Meanwhile Shabudin insists that his comments were taken out of context and the only reason for his opposition to criminalising child marriage was because it is allowed by Sharia law.

The Sexual Offences Against Children bill was passed by the Malaysian parliament this week without the child marriage amendment. It introduces new punishments for making, possessing or distributing indecent images of children. People found guilty can now face up to 30 years in prison and being whipped six times.

Speaking to Reuters Teo Nie Ching, the MP who introduced the unsuccessful child marriage amendment, said although the law was “more stringent now [it was still] not enough”. As marital rape is still legal in Malaysia, abusers could escape prosecution by marrying their underage victims, she claimed.

Photo of Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, by Andrea Schaffer via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

Paul - April 6, 2017 at 8:22am

Disgusting. Protecting rapists and pedophilia in the name of islam. Totally backwards and barbaric.

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