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Child marriage is statutory rape, says Sabah minister

 | November 18, 2017

However, Sabah Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Jainab Ahmad Ayid says having 3 court systems - civil court, shariah court and native court - complicates the matter.

Jainab-Ahmad-Ayid-Child-marriage-is-statutory-rape-1KOTA KINABALU: Any man who marries an underage girl is considered to have committed statutory rape even if the marriage is consensual, declared Sabah Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister Jainab Ahmad Ayid.

Jainab said the law of the land prevails in such a case, in that all females under the age of 18 are classified as children.

“Children should be going to schools and get an education. They should not be involved in marriage, even if it is consensual. Parents must understand this,” she said.

Jainab was commenting on a statement made by Liawan assemblyman Sairin Karno who urged the national registration department (NRD) to be flexible when it comes to an underage girl who marries according to the customs in Sabah.

He said that such marriages are permitted by certain customs in Sabah.

Jainab said while she agreed such marriages exist and are admittedly, very rampant, she is sad it has continued to be allowed to take place.

“It is not about whether it is allowed or not. Under civil law, it is illegal. The ministry has continuously done various programmes in the villages to educate the parents but at the same time, it is very difficult because they don’t want to change,” she said.

Jainab then cited a case in 2014 where a man who had raped a 13-year old schoolgirl decided to marry the girl in exchange for her parents withdrawing their report against him.

However, the authorities pursued the case against the man and he was eventually found guilty of rape and jailed. Despite serving time for his crime, he chose to stay married to the rape victim.

“When the ministry advised the parents of the girl to let her go back to school, they refused saying that the girl is married and prefers to work.

“They said because the man’s first wife is a make-up artist, their daughter could learn the trade and become a make-up artist one day.

“That is illogical but who are we? We are not the parents. We have asked some NGOs to counsel the parents but the father was stubborn and would not allow the daughter to go to school,” Jainab said.

Nevertheless, Jainab said her ministry together with various agencies and NGOs will continue to educate parents to let their children finish school and get an education instead of marrying them off young.

“The problem is we have three court systems namely the civil court, shariah court and native court. People make use of the loopholes. We are trying to stop this but it is very difficult,” she said.

Jainab also warned of the physical and psychological issues that could arise with underaged girls getting married.

“They will have health problems and the lack of education as well as illiteracy means they do not have any future other than staying in the village in poverty.

“Many times their equally young husbands will migrate to cities to find jobs, leaving behind the wives and young children and they never come back.

“It is a vicious cycle,“ she said.

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