PETALING JAYA: DAP MP Teo Nie Ching, who is a strong advocate of banning child marriages, has said bringing in religion to justify child marriages further complicates the issue as it does not provide any solution.
“Do the child marriage supporters ever think of the health, psychological and social implications on their children if the girls are just married off?
“Or are they merely trying to ‘save face’ to avoid humiliation?”
She stressed that young girls aged 10 to 14 are more prone to childbirth death if they are pregnant, compared with those aged between 20 and 24.
Yesterday, the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) had said that child marriages existed in the 21st century because certain quarters are using religion to defend the practice.
NCWO member Sharifah Syahirah Syed Sheikh had said girls are often married off by their families to preserve the family’s dignity, not because of economic reasons.
Teo asked why Malaysia had not followed the move by other Muslim-majority countries in prohibiting children from getting married.
“Egypt, Algeria and Morocco have amended their laws to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 for both girls and boys. Why are we not following their footsteps?”
She lamented that she had been accused of being “anti-Islam” by her political opponents every time she brought up child marriage issues.
“I was seen by them as trying to interfere in Islamic matters.”
Meanwhile, former minister Zaid Ibrahim said the country could be regarded as having regressed if people made decisions based on traditional values rather than international standards set to protect human rights.
“Set aside the religious and cultural mindset for the moment. Look at the problems that come with child marriages.
“It has adverse effects on the child’s well-being. For that, we should stop it.”
Zaid said marrying a child is “cruel” as they are not mature enough to even drive a car.
“A child is a child, and marriage is something serious and is meant to last a lifetime,” he added.
The women, family, and community development ministry has said the government does not encourage child marriages.
“Underage marriage can be challenging in terms of physical and mental health.
“It also involves the education and financial aspects of the child,” the ministry said last month, after drawing flak for its statement that a 16-year-old rape victim is still married to her rapist, who is currently serving time in prison for the offence.