Suhakam commissioner denies supporting child marriage

Suhakam commissioner Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh says her Facebook post on child marriage has been misunderstood.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Suhakam commissioner today denied supporting child marriage, following a public backlash over a Facebook post she had made on the matter.

Speaking to FMT, Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh said her Facebook post on the marriage of an 11-year-old Thai national to a 41-year-old Malaysian had been misunderstood.

She said the point she was trying to drive home was that age was not the only factor in ensuring that a marriage is “sunnah” or lawful.

She told FMT that there were many other requirements to fulfil, and that even if the bride was 20 or 30 years old, it would not automatically make the marriage lawful.

She said other requirements included a man’s ability to provide for his family, and to ensure that his wife is “given knowledge”.

“For a woman, you have to ensure that if something happens to your marriage, you can survive.

“It does not mean that it is okay to marry at 11.”

In fact, Nik Salida said she would be meeting with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) on the issue of marriage age.

“I also recently presented a human rights paper to the heads of all state religious departments, in which I highlighted the urgent need to increase the legal marriage age from 16 to 18.

“I’m clear in my position as a Suhakam commissioner that girls 11, 12, 13, 14, and to me, even 18, are not capable of being a responsible wife.”

In her post, she said, she had also asked why polygamy was acceptable in this case as the groom was taking the girl as his third wife without performing his duties to his first and second wives.

She said the groom had not asked for permission from his second wife, claiming he had not done so as he “clearly” wasn’t allowed to take a minor as his wife.

“So he marries and pays a fine of just RM1,000. This is why I believe the shariah court needs to be empowered further,” she said, denying that she had removed her Facebook post.

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.