More data needed to spur child marriage reforms, says SIS

KUALA LUMPUR: Muslim women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS) has called for the collection of new data and evidence to spur effective reforms on the issue of child marriage.

Rozana Isa.

The group’s executive director Rozana Isa said the only data on marriages involving young girls was based on the census by the Department of Statistics, the next of which is due in 2020.

This data showed that there were 82,000 girls between the age of 15 and 19 married in 2010, compared to 53,000 in 2000.

In 2000, 6,800 girls below the age of 15 were married.

Rozana said new information would play a significant role in educating the public, including conservative groups who accept child marriage.

“If we don’t look at the reality, we can only have discussions based on abstract or anecdotal evidence. Evidence-based research is very important,” she told FMT after a panel discussion on SIS’ campaign “Students Are Not Brides” or “Pelajar Bukan Pengantin”.

The campaign was launched in July in an effort to bring about a ban on child marriages. It is supported by Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Klang MP Charles Santiago, among others.

Rozana said the elements that should be studied included whether children would continue attending school once they were married.

“There should be efforts to see how many married, school-going teens stay in school after getting married,” she said, adding that many young wives or mothers ended up dropping out of school.

Other elements that should be studied include the rate at which young mothers bear children, their employment practices and family-planning decisions, she said.