In Malaysia, which is Muslim-majority country, a law on sexual offences against children has been passed. However, to our surprise, it doesn’t criminalise child marriage. A Malaysian MP said girls as young as nine were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.
Shabudin Yahaya, a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, made the above comments in response to a proposal by an opposition member of parliament to amend the Sexual Offences Against Children bill to include a ban on child marriages. Shabudin said on Tuesday during a debate on the bill also said that there was ‘nothing wrong’ with a rape victim marrying her rapist as she would then not face a “bleak future”.
Notably, under both civil and Islamic law, both girls and boys younger than 18 can be married. The Civil law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18, but those above 16 can be married with the permission of their state’s chief minister. Under Islamic law, children younger than 16 can get married if the Shariah courts allow it. The law passed on Tuesday makes no mention of child marriage.
The proposal was voted down by the majority of parliament. “They reach puberty at the age of nine or 12. And at that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old. So physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry,”
Shabudin’s comments invited a lot of criticism of social media. In his defence on Wednesday, he said his comments were taken out of context, and that marriage was not a “back door exit to legalise rape.” He said he rejected the motion to ban child marriages as it was contrary to provisions in sharia law.