PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago today called for an end to child marriages even with the consent of the father, amid the uproar over a 41-year-old rubber tapper in Kelantan who took an 11-year-old girl as his third wife.
Labelling the act as “statutory rape”, Santiago said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must take a firm and clear stand against child marriages as promised in its election manifesto.
“Malaysia strengthened its legislative framework on sexual crimes against children last year, but without criminalising child marriages.
“Child marriages must therefore be banned even with the consent of the father, and law reforms to make 18 the legal age for marriage must be tabled at the coming Parliament session,” he said in a statement.
The debate on underage marriage was renewed following news that rubber tapper Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid had married 11-year-old Masaryu Mat Rashid last month.
Che Abdul defended his action saying he had received the blessing of the girl’s parents.
He said his other two wives had also accepted his marriage to Masaryu, and that he would formalise the marriage by applying for a marriage certificate after five years, when his “wife” turns 16.
The current legal age for marriage under civil law is 18, while shariah courts are empowered to allow Muslim marriages at 16 or younger.
Santiago said it was evident that Che Abdul had been grooming Masaryu, especially given the man’s close relationship with her parents.
“The child, in her own words, said she ‘loved’ the man from the time she was nine years old, indicating that the grooming started way earlier.
“As such, he must be arrested immediately and charged in court under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act.”
Santiago added that the government must act at once to show that the protection of the child was its priority.
“And violations to the rights of the child will not be tolerated.”