KUALA LUMPUR: Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto today praised the Sabah government for setting the minimum age of marriage at 18.
She described it as “a timely Chinese New Year gift for all children, not only in Sabah but throughout the nation” as it could have a spillover effect.
The international secretary for Wanita DAP said this “momentous and significant decision” would not have been possible without a concerted effort by Assistant Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Jannie Lasimbang and other like-minded lawmakers, native chiefs and others.
She said it was important for religious leaders of all states to address the rights, position and role of children in society, reminding that Malaysia was a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Nations that have a high number of child marriages often fare poorly economically and are worse off where social justice is concerned,” added Kasthuri, who is a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality.
Kasthuri said it was critical for the government to analyse the monetary gains it would enjoy if child marriages were significantly reduced. The money could then be used to fund long-term development projects and programmes for children.
“Research also suggests that girls from the poorest quintile, or the poorest 20%, are more likely married off compared to girls who belong to 20% of the richest portion.
“This, of course, does not discount the fact that child marriages also exist in richer families where girls of ‘higher’ socio-economic status also face a higher risk of being married off earlier.”
Kasthuri said poverty and a lack of awareness and education remain drivers of child marriages.
“But with consolidated efforts between all parties, child marriages will soon be a thing of the past, not only in Malaysia but in the region as well.”