19 September 2020, Saturday | 11:44pm

DPM discloses five-year plan to end child marriages in Malaysia


PUTRAJAYA, Jan 16 — Putrajaya is working on a five-year plan that it hopes will end the ongoing practice of marriages with minors,  Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today.

The deputy prime minister said the comprehensive plan was presented to the Cabinet on January 8 and has since been approved.

“The plan will be implemented over a period of five years from 2020 to 2025 covering short, medium and long term programmes or actions that will involve federal government agencies, state government agencies, non-governmental organisations and international organisations.

“To put it all in perspective, there are programmes and actions already in place by some agencies to improve the management of marriages involving minors,” she said in her speech at the launch of the National Strategic Plan for Addressing the Causes of Underage Marriage here.

The plan covers not only Muslims marriages under the Shariah courts, but also non-Muslim and traditional or adat marriages involving the Orang Asli in the peninsula and the natives in Sabah and Sarawak.

The 18-page plan listed seven objectives, which it hopes to achieve through 16 strategies and 58 programmes that will be executed by 61 agencies.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also women, family and community development minister, said the National Registration Department has taken steps to improve its procedures and guidelines for marriages below 18 since August 22 last year.

She said the Shariah Judicial Department of Malaysia has also developed a standard operating procedure for marriage applications involving minors that will be used as a benchmark for Muslim cases nationwide.

She said the Education Ministry had also introduced lessons on reproduction and social health in preschools.

She added that her own ministry, through its National Youth and Family Development Board, provides reproductive health services, including social counselling and health screening to teenagers who have had premarital sex.

Dr Wan Azizah said the government is working to collect data on underage marriages and divorces through a special inter-agency committee led by the Department of Statistics.

Last Friday, Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas disclosed that the government is studying a proposal to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslims from 16 to 18.

Last November, Dr Wan Azizah said Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan disagreed with the legal amendment to child marriage laws.

To date, only Selangor has amended its state enactment, while the Federal Territories have begun the amendment process. Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak have agreed to amend their laws, she added.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department is finalising the amendment to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) 1984, also known as Act 303, and is coordinating with state departments to increase the marriageable age among Muslims.



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