Thailand's Islamic Council Has Now Banned Child Marriages

The ban follows public anger sparked by the marriage earlier this year of an 11-year-old girl to a Kelantanese man four times her age.

Thailand's Islamic council called the Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT) has issued a nationwide ban on child marriage

The CICOT's new regulation bans children under the age of 17 from marriage.

While the Sheikhul Islam of Thailand Aziz Phitakkumpon, who also chairs CICOT had given his approval for the new regulation back in November, it will be announced to all mosques today, 14 December, Wisut Binlateh, the director of the coordination centre for the Sheikhul Islam Office and a senior member of the Islamic Council told The Nation.

Image via Chiangrai Times

While the new regulation ensures mosques cannot grant permission for marriages involving anyone aged under 17, there's a caveat

If an Islamic court gives permission or the parents sign a document approving the marriage at the provincial Islamic committee office or at the local police station then mosques can grant their permission for marriages, Panadda Isho, a legal specialist at the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), was reported as saying.

Panadda also said that SBPAC would translate the new regulation into Bahasa Melayu and publicise the information through seminars, reported the Thai English daily.

According to the local coverage, the new regulation will end a widespread practice in the southern Muslim-majority provinces where girls were married off by poor parents with the permission of the local mosque once the girl had started menstruating

However, the Islamic Council's move has been criticised as "not enough" by National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapai-jit, who said that without penalties set for violators, the regulation is more like "asking for cooperation," reported The Nation.

In the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun, Islamic law has been used in place of the Civil Code for family matters and inheritance.

The Islamic law does not specify the minimum age for marriage unlike the Civil Code, applied elsewhere in the Kingdom, which has set the minimum age at 17.

Many Malaysian men have used this loophole to take much younger girls as wives from Thailand, and local imams reportedly benefited monetarily from this loophole.

In July this year, this loophole came under fire after an 11-year-old Thai girl was married off to a Kelantanese man four times her age, sparking a widespread public outrage.

Meanwhile, back in November the Kelantan Government along with Kelantan Islamic Affairs Department, and Kelantan Pertubuhan Lepasan Undang-Undang dan Hak Asasi Manusia concluded that child marriage is a "necessity" in Kelantan:

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