Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail released a statement today, 21 September, condemning child marriages
Wan Azizah clarified that her recent comments on the Tumpat child marriage were a "descriptive statement of what the child explained" to her officers
"I wish to clarify my recent statement on the marriage of the 15-year-old to the 44-year-old divorcee in Kelantan which was based on a report from my officers from the Welfare Department," Wan Azizah said in the statement.
"The report stated that the marriage was sanctioned by the Mahkamah Rendah Syariah Tumpat (Tumpat Lower Syariah Court) and is legal according to current laws.
"What I said was just a descriptive statement of what the child explained to my officers," she continued.
"Marriage should not be used as a way out of poverty."
The Minister also shared that the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) and her ministry will prepare a paper to raise the marriage age for Muslims
Wan Azizah chaired a meeting on 13 September to "discuss this issue with all the relevant stakeholders".
The paper will then be presented to the Mesyuarat Menteri Besar dan Ketua Menteri (Meeting of Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers) to garner support from the states to raise the legal minimum age.
"Selangor's move to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 should be emulated by other states," she said, adding that a Cabinet Paper will also be prepared to raise the marriageable age of non-Muslims to 18 years old as well.
However, as amending the law will take time, the Ministry will take stricter measures on approval of child marriages in the meantime
Wan Azizah said, in reference to customary marriages, that the respective customary heads will be informed of the dangers of underage marriages to the child's health and safety and why a minimum age is so important.
Additionally, her ministry will also be meeting with the Department of Syariah Judiciary on stricter and more thorough guidelines for Syariah court judges in approving child marriages.
"Risk factors of pregnancy and child birth at such a young age must be taken into account," she added.
"I have also instructed my officers to examine current laws to ensure (that) the welfare of children is taken care of."
The Minister agreed that amendment to laws is only part of the bigger solution
"A holistic approach must include education, welfare nets, poverty eradication, and support systems," said Wan Azizah.
"The protection and rights of children is of paramount importance to me and I will not compromise on that matter."
Wan Azizah was previously slammed by various NGOs for her response to the recent child marriage case: