Deputy Minister Says Child Marriages Should Have High Court Hearings And Mandatory SOPs

Fauziah Salleh said that the welfare of the child should be of utmost importance.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh said the government is looking into having underaged marriage cases heard in high courts

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh.

Image via Azinuddin Ghazali/Malay Mail

She made the remarks during the Labuan PKR 'Women Get-Together Programme' on Saturday, 22 September.

"This (is) to ensure each case is being heard before judges with more expertise in the area," Fuziah explained to Bernama.

The Kuantan MP also said that new standard operating procedures (SOPs) on child marriage were introduced last month

A month ago, the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia had introduced stricter SOPs which emphasised on the welfare of the child as paramount importance.

"The MKI (National Fatwa Council for Religious Affairs in Malaysia) Fatwa states that child marriage brings harm than good as it has psychological implications for the child bride as her uterus is not ready to assume the role of a mother," Fuziah said.

Under the new SOPs, in order for a Muslim child marriage to be approved, both the underaged girl and her parents will be required to attend multiple interviews and tests, reported Malay Mail on 20 September.

Fuziah said the tests included reproductive health tests and psychological tests.

However, in the Tumpat child marriage case, the SOPs had not been followed

The 15-year-old girl (far right) with her parents.

Image via Syamsi Suhaimi/New Straits Times

"As we have enactments under the purview of the state governments, it is up to the respective state governments to adopt the procedures or otherwise," explained Fuziah.

"But the latest child marriage case involving a 15-year-old child in Tumpat, Kelantan showed the procedures were not applied," she said.

"We are also looking into making the SOPs mandatory for courts to follow to ensure that the child's interest and welfare will be priority in underage marriage case proceedings."

The Department is also committed to raising the minimum age of marriage to 18, but Fuziah admitted it might not help much

Bernama reported Fuziah as saying that raising the age limit for marriage might not help much, as "those eager to get married would always have ways and means to go about it like going to Thailand and so forth".

"As such, before we can make any decision, for the protection of the child, we must impose stricter SOPs and take into consideration the court judges assigned to conduct the proceedings."

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