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Child marriages on the rise in Malaysia

Press Trust of India  |  Kuala Lumpur 

Malaysian girls under the age of 16 are not permitted to drive or buy cigarettes but they can legally get married, and are increasingly doing so.

In 2012, there were around 1,165 applications for marriage in which one party, usually the bride, is younger than the legal marrying age, according to statistics from the Malaysian Shariah Judiciary Department (JKSM).

The Shariah Courts approved 1,022 of them.

In Malaysia, the legal minimum marriage age is 18, but it is 16 for Muslim girls.

Those aged below 16 can marry with the consent of the Shariah

This is an increase from the 2011 record, when some 900 marriages, involving at least one Muslim minor, were approved, The Star reported today.

As of May this year, JKSM received 600 marriage applications, of which 446 had been approved.

Malaysia, along with over 90 other countries, adopted a United Nations resolution to end child, early or forced marriages, at the Human Rights Council last week.

However, JKSM's data shows that child marriage is very much rampant in

'Sisters in Islam', a non-governmental organisation, said it was shocking that child marriage still existed in the country because of loopholes in the marriage laws and a continuing belief that girls should be married off once they reached puberty, according to the report.

Given the significant number, the government needs to review the provisions in secular, customary and Shariah law that currently permitted girls under the age of 18 to marry, said United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programme advisor Saira Shameem.

According to Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general Othman Mustapha, getting married at an early age "is not forbidden in Islam but the marrying couple have to be mature enough to understand that with matrimony comes great responsibility".

First Published: Mon, October 07 2013. 17:15 IST