PETALING JAYA: Amend the Age of Majority Act – that’s all Putrajaya needs to do to stop child marriages, a retired judge says.
Gopal Sri Ram said the legislation was a federal law, therefore Parliament could enact laws to determine the age of majority and consent to enter into contracts, including marriages.
“Age of consent and majority is a federal subject, and this is a uniform law applicable to all communities,” he told FMT.
He said all the government needed to do was to amend the law and extend it to any area of human activity, including the age to vote and get married.
“Parliament may also prescribe the consequences of contravening the law,” he said, adding that child marriage was not religion-based.
He was responding to Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who had said that investigations by several government agencies into a child marriage in Gua Musang were still ongoing.
Wan Azizah, who is also women, family and community development minister, said the ministry was coordinating the investigations.
The issue of child marriage entered the limelight after news that Kelantanese rubber tapper Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid took an 11-year-old girl as his third wife last month.
The 41-year-old was fined RM1,800 by the Gua Musang Shariah Court after pleading guilty to marrying the minor without prior consent from the shariah court and engaging in polygamy without permission from his spouse.
The father of four said he was merely trying to provide for the girl and to save her from her poor family.
He also said most of his fellow villagers had accepted his marriage, and that it was only “outsiders” who were unhappy over the matter.
Sri Ram said such a marriage could run foul of the Penal Code, which is also a federal law.
Under Section 376, he said, a person could be charged with statutory rape for having intercourse with a girl aged 16 and below.
“An offence is committed because a minor cannot give consent for sexual intercourse,” he said.
Under Section 354, he added, the offence of outraging the modesty of a minor would have taken place if a man had “touched” her, even with her consent.
For both offences, the offender could be handed a long-term prison sentence, whipping and a fine.