According to Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, the minimum marrying age for all Malaysians should be set at 18 "with no exceptions for boys and girls regardless of race and religion"
"I look forward also to the Pakatan Harapan leadership to include cementing the age of marriage to minimum 18," Patto said in a statement yesterday, 23 June.
The DAP Wanita publicity secretary was commenting on a proposal to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, and called the move to lower the marrying age "an outstanding and noble gesture to uphold the rights of children to grow with their dignities intact under a Malaysia Baru," The Star reported.
Under civil law, the minimum marrying age for non-Muslims is 18, however, girls can marry as early as 16 provided they get the permission of the state chief minister or mentri besar. For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but exceptions can be made as long as consent from the Islamic courts' is obtained.
Patto pointed out that as a signatory of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysia has a "moral duty" to end child marriages once and for all
"A child who marries is a human rights violation as their freedom is compromised," she said.
The Batu Kawan MP explained that not only do child marriages lead to health complications during their pregnancies, which are a danger to both mother and child, children who marry are "more likely to suffer domestic violence."
"Most likely they will not complete their education, and with stunted knowledge, they will become attractive commodities to manipulate, exploit, and violate," she said.
"We will face an entire generation of children deprived of their rights to fully live their lives as Malaysians," Patto added.
Despite the fact that the minimum age of marriage is lower for Muslim girls, the number of child marriages among non-Muslim girls is still high
Data from the Syariah Judicial Department revealed that 10,240 cases of child marriages among Muslim children were recorded between 2005 and 2015.
However, from 2011 to September 2015, 2,104 cases of child marriages were recorded by the National Registration Department for 16-year-old non-Muslim girls. Among the cases, 680 of the girls married boys of the same age while 1,424 married men over the age of 21.
"These shocking numbers must be the last child marriages in Malaysia," said Patto, according to The Star.