Cabinet to get SOP on child marriages

DPM’s political secretary Rodziah Ismail says a task force will be set up later to ensure all states follow the guidelines. (Youtube screengrab)

GEORGE TOWN: Putrajaya plans to impose stricter guidelines for approval of marriages below the age of 18 by the Shariah Court.

Rodziah Ismail, the political secretary to Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, said a paper on the standard operating procedures (SOP) will be prepared by next week by the women, family and community development ministry for Cabinet approval.

“If there is any possibility of approving marriages under the age of 18, it must be subjected to very strict guidelines and the SOP must be followed by the Shariah Court.

“This was the most important thing highlighted yesterday during a meeting between Wan Azizah and relevant stakeholders,” she said after paying a courtesy call on Penang Women and Family Development Committee chairman Chong Eng.

Rodziah, who is the Batu Tiga assemblyman, explained that any marriage below the permitted age needed the consent of the Shariah Court, the chief minister or the menteri besar.

“Now, we are not just talking about consent, but we are putting an SOP in place, where both the prospective groom and bride go through checks on their health, education, well-being and other matters to make sure the family will be able to live a normal life.

“The SOP will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval, and we hope it will be endorsed in two weeks’ time,” she said.

Rodziah said that once the SOP was in place, a task force would be set up to ensure all states followed the guidelines and instructions of the ministry.

“We need to protect the children. We need the SOP, considering there were over 1,000 applications for underage marriages in the country over the last five years.

“This is not a small number. We need to address this matter,” she said.

Rodziah’s comments come amid public outrage over the marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old rubber tapper, Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid, from Kelantan.

On whether there would be any follow-up action to the case in Kelantan, she said at this juncture, there was no proof that the marriage, which was supposedly solemnised in southern Thailand, actually took place.

She said investigations were being carried out by the Thai authorities and she urged them to provide any documents to show the marriage had been registered.

“We’ll also give time to Che Karim to come forward to show proof that he and the girl are already married.

“You see, in Islam, marriage is simple. The first step is that there is a kadi in charge of akad nikah. And then there are two witnesses.

“Yesterday, they could not even prove whether these witnesses existed.

“So, to the government, the marriage does not exist. If the necessary documents cannot be presented after a certain time, the responsibility is on the government to address the problem, to take care and protect the child.

“Regardless of whether she is a citizen or not, we’ve to rescue her first,” she said.

Rodziah added that subsequently, they would look into the well-being of the family, and the village they live in, if there are any issues of poverty.