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Can children marry?

“If the syariah court grants the marriage, there is no reason for anyone, not even the civil courts, to question the sanctity of the marriage.”

SELANGOR mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid, stating that syariah courts could hear applications to approve marriages involving Muslim girls under 16. Currently, Islamic family law allows girls 16 and above, and boys 18 and above to marry. However, the syariah court can give permission for younger children to marry.

Tamyes said the conditions for Muslim marriages differed from that of non-Muslims, and that the syariah courts would protect the interests of minors in marriages. Tamyes also said chances of approvals for under-16s to marry were slim, and that applicants would have to meet strict criteria to prove they were capable of building a solid and lasting marriage. (Source: ‘Get syariah court’s okay on child marriages’, New Straits Times, 20 Mar 2010)

“We have had some parents requesting to marry off their 16-year-old daughters. We allowed a few as we found that the girls were physically and mentally prepared to start a married life.

“Some girls, even at the age of 16, look frail. We will disallow the marriage as she may not be able to handle the burden of pregnancy and marital duties.”

Chief Syariah Judge and Malaysian Syariah Judiciary Department director-general Tan Sri Ibrahim Lembut, commenting on child marriages. Ibrahim warned Muslim parents that they could be charged if they married their children off without the syariah court’s permission. (Source: ‘Get syariah court’s okay on child marriages’, New Straits Times, 20 Mar 2010)

“There is no need to amend the law.

“The law already exists … marrying someone aged 16 and below requires the consent of the court. The court does not simply grant the consent.”

Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in the prime minister’s department in charge of religious affairs, denying any need to amend the law to make it illegal for under-18s to marry. Jamil said maturity was subjective and not based solely on age. (Source: Underage marriage: No need to amend law, says minister, AFP as quoted on Malaysiakini, 16 Mar 2010)

“Sisters in Islam calls for an end to child marriage as it is an unacceptable practice in the present day and age. It is shocking that this practice still exists in a country like Malaysia because of a loophole in the Islamic Family Law and a continuing belief that Muslim girls can be married off once they reach puberty.

“The minimum age of marriage for Muslim girls must be raised to 18 to be in compliance with the Child Act, which defines children as those below the age of 18. The loophole in the Islamic Family law must also be closed to prevent marriages below the age of 18.”

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir on behalf of Sisters in Islam, condemning recent child marriages and calling for the law to be amended to make it illegal for under-18s to marry. (Source: Sisters in Islam calls for end to child marriage,, 12 Mar 2010)

“It is unacceptable that child marriages are allowed to take place. There is simply no justifiable reason for children to be given away to be married off … These girls in the Kelantan cases were children. Surely that is wrong by any civilised standard. They are victims of a very sick practice.

“Let’s put an end to child marriages because they are a violation of the rights and a clear form of abuse of our children. It’s as simple as that.”

Columnist Nuraina Samad, calling for an end to child marriages. (Source: No place for child marriages here, New Straits Times, 20 Mar 2010)

“‘Child’ means a person under the age of  [18] years.”

Malaysian Child Act 2001.

“When [children are] pushed into marriage, they are pushed into early pregnancy.”

The United Nations’ Children’s Fund spokesperson Naseem ur-Rehman in Yemen, commenting on the death in childbirth of a 12-year-old girl, who had been married at a young age. The girl was in labour for three days before bleeding to death. (Source: Yemeni government defends efforts to end girls’ marriages, CNN, 16 Sept 2009)

“Millions of young girls in the developing world are married when they are still children, and as a result are denied the ordinary experiences that young people elsewhere take for granted: schooling, good health, economic opportunities and friendship with peers.

“Nearly all of the world’s nations have concurred repeatedly that childhood — with the ongoing investment in the young person that the notion implies — should last until age 18.”

Report by the International Centre for Research on Women. (Source: Too young to wed the lives, rights and health of young married girls, International Center for Research on Women, 2003) favicon

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6 Responses to “Can children marry?”

  1. siew eng says:

    This subject is too geli. And the fact that ‘religious’ men – the so-called righteous ones allowed to speak on/for Islam – cannot see it is just so skin-crawling. Just makes you wonder the kind of education they had – both these men and the poor, poor children.

  2. Sean says:

    I don’t think it was entirely necessary to include the “death in childbirth” story in this article unless you were prepared to set it in context by informing us that childbirth very soon after puberty is more difficult than it is a few years later. I don’t doubt the graph of “infant/mother mortality” versus “years since puberty” starts high and ends high, but I would be surprised to find that any initial “high” would last even as long as most jurisdictions’ age of majority, particularly if confounding factors such as awareness of and ability to take advantage of clinical care could be taken out. Without that context, the single case looks sensational.

    Sex aside — since the article is not about it — the matter hinges (in my mind) on the ability to consent to a contract. A marriage contract is probably the most onerous contract any of us will ever sign. We will never sign an employment contract or mortgage contract or strategic business alliance that says “everything, forever”. That being the case, I think the criteria for ability to sign a marriage contract should be more strict than for many other contracts. I would sooner my children could take loans, join political parties and start companies at an earlier age than they could get married.

    I think what appalls me most about the article is that it is the girls’ parents — rather than herself or her spouse — who are applying for the contract. While I may be a tyrant in my own house where my children are concerned, the idea that I would voluntarily consent to a life-long contract for them makes me giddy. If parents are claiming hardship as a reason for the practice, perhaps we might also consider raising the upper time limit for abortion to bring it into line with the age of majority?

    Alternatively, the state could provide an attractive welfare package for the first three children, with any further productivity causing a complete cessation of payments (and access to child marriage contracts) unless the father deposits his pickled testicles with the Welfare Department.

    Hardship and fecundity. Very tricky problem. I still think establishing surrogacy as a respected, well-paid and tightly regulated profession is one possible answer. Then again, my ignorance may be showing — is the practice of marrying off young daughters the preserve of the poor, or do the wealthy do it, too?

  3. azlan says:

    This is not […] Middle East. We are not […]. Do these stupid muftis even get that we are in a modern world? This is ridiculous and not to mention appalling. Children getting married. Even with 16 year-olds I’m iffy on the whole morality of it.

    Chalk it up to the liberal in me, but someone has to know what being married means before they actually get married. Can you expect someone at the tender age of 12 to understand that? Physically they may be mature, but psychologically they are not. People act like children even till college.

    These muftis must be brought down from their I-know-what-to-do-because-God-told-me mentality. God does talk to these barbarians. Let’s face it, these muftis are barbarians if say child marriages are okay. They should be skinned alive.

  4. SM says:

    [..] Our MPs should be debating issues like this in Parliament and NOT crap like the 1Malaysia/1Israel concept! Worst part about all this is that our system seems to close one eye — just look at what Jamil, minister in the PM’s office, says! Better still, look at the Selangor mufti! […]

  5. Bernard Chang says:

    “When [children are] pushed into marriage, they are pushed into early pregnancy.”

    Oh, come on. That’s euphemism for rape. While I appreciate that the person quoted has to speak in politically correct terms, the rest of us mustn’t try and repackage it to make it sound less offensive.

  6. Suri Kempe says:

    Also found in quotation: “A child of that age does not have the choice or capacity to give her full consent and, as such, child marriage is viewed within the context of force and coercion.”

    Women, family and community development minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil speaking out against the practice of child marriages (Source: Malaysian minister rejects child marriage reform, AFP, 16 March 2010)

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