Make biological fathers accountable, MP tells shariah courts

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PETALING JAYA: Amanah Wanita chief Siti Mariah Mahmud has urged the shariah courts to make biological fathers responsible for the welfare and upbringing of their illegitimate children.

She made the call in response to a statement by the MP for Kulai, Teo Nie Ching of DAP. Teo said at a recent forum on child marriages that most Muslim MPs were afraid to be vocal about child marriages even if they agreed that it should stop.

Speaking to FMT, Siti Mariah, who is Kota Raja MP, said some non-Muslims might not know that the only way the shariah courts could make a biological father responsible for the welfare of his unborn child was to ensure the child was legitimate.

Under Islamic law, a child is considered legitimate only if it is born six months or more after marriage. Many child marriages occur because of pregnancy or the risk of pregnancy.

“For non-Muslims, it does not matter because as long as you are the biological father, then you are responsible for the child,” she said.

“There’s a weakness in our Islamic law. It does not recognise a biological father if there is no legitimate marriage and therefore he goes scot free.”

She said this was the reason most Muslim MPs would tread carefully on the subject of child marriages.

She said an easy fix to this problem would be for the shariah courts to make it mandatory for biological fathers to take care of their children regardless of whether or not they were legitimate.

“Right now, we’re thinking about the best interests of the unborn child. However, as far as I’m concerned, shariah law should follow civil law in that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 unless there is permission from the shariah courts.

“At the same time, the shariah courts need a set of guidelines as to which underage marriages should be approved and which shouldn’t be.”

Under Malaysia’s shariah law, the minimum age of marriage for girls is 16 years old. Those below this age need permission from the shariah courts.

Under Malaysian civil law, the minimum age for marriage is 18 years old. Those below this age need permission from either a menteri besar or chief minister.

Siti Mariah said parents should not be allowed to marry off their underaged children for financial reasons or for fear of the consequences of their wild lifestyle.

“If your child has a moral problem or if she is a delinquent and you’re afraid she’s going to commit fornication, then it is the Muslim community and the government which must make sure she gets rehabilitation.

“Allowing her to get married just because she is wild is not right because, in the end, what will guarantee that if she becomes a mother she will be able to bring up her children properly?”

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