PETALING JAYA: Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail continues to attract criticism from activists over her perceived reluctance to take action against a 41-year-old man who married an 11-year-old child, with a coalition of women’s groups urging swift action to be taken to protect the girl, a Thai national who lives in Kelantan.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said it was time to act, urging the government to conclude its lengthy investigations.
“This insistence on investigations which have gone on for over a month already clearly reflects a lack of political will to take action against the man and protect the 11-year-old child bride,” said JAG, which is made up of nine women’s rights groups, including vocal Muslim group Sisters in Islam, and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
This comes after Wan Azizah, the deputy prime minister who is also in charge of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, said there should be a “water tight case” before action could be taken against the man.
Prominent activist Marina Mahathir has also added to the chorus of criticism against Wan Azizah.
“How much more water tight evidence do we need?” she asked on Facebook. “This 41-year-old man has been interested in her since she was 7 and married her at 11… that’s all the evidence you need!”
The marriage of Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid to Masaryu Mat Rashid has renewed a debate on banning underage marriages in Malaysia, currently allowed with special permission from shariah judges (for Muslims) and chief ministers (for non-Muslims).
Masaryu’s parents have given their blessing to the union despite condemnation by human rights groups.
JAG said the man not only had admitted his interest in the girl since she was seven, which points to the offence of “sexual grooming”, but is also guilty of falsifying his marriage certificate as well as violating shariah procedures.
“The ‘marriage’ does not fulfil the Kelantanese Islamic Family Law Enactment 2002 Section 23,” it said.
“The second wife of the man has publicly shared that the man has not been able to provide for their family, and has unfairly favoured his third ‘wife’ over his previous wives,” the statement added.
Earlier today, Lawyers for Liberty told Wan Azizah that the case was not complex.
“There is no reasonable excuse for failing to enforce the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act to the fullest extent in this shocking and obvious case,” said LFL executive director Latheefa Koya.
JAG, which is made up of nine women’s rights groups, said it feared that the girl remained “exposed to the man”, adding that she should be immediately separated from him as he poses “a physical and emotional threat to her”.
The coalition said swift action must be taken to ensure that the marriage would not be legalised through manipulation.
“Child marriages violate international instruments that have been ratified by Malaysia, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).”