Malaysia has launched a national plan to address the causes of underage marriage at the grassroots level in an effort to combat the problem in the country
So what are the causes of underage marriage that the national plan intends to address?
According to New Straits Times, the government identified six causes of underage marriage in Malaysia which they have planned to individually tackle:
- Low household income and poverty,
- Lack or no access to sexual reproductive health education and parenting skills,
- Lack of access to education and poor school attendance,
- Stigma and social norms that dictate underage marriage is the best solution to address problems,
- Loose laws that provide for marriage under the age of 18, and
- Coordination of marital data and underage divorce.
How will the plan be carried out to address these causes?
Dr Wan Azizah said the plan encompasses seven objectives, 17 strategies, and 58 programmes to address the causes in the next five years.
The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Women, Family, and Community Development Minister, said that 61 agencies will be involved as implementing agencies for the short, medium, and long-term programmes.
A steering committee will be formed to monitor the implementation of the plan
"The main purpose of these programmes are to raise awareness and change perceptions and stigma related to underaged marriage issues in the society," she said at the launch of the national strategy, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today.
Also present were Deputy Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah Salleh, and Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.
Meanwhile, the government has been actively taking other steps to combat underaged marriage since last year
The Deputy Prime Minister said that the Syariah Judicial Department of Malaysia has developed a standard operating procedure for marriage applications involving minors that will be used as a benchmark for Muslim cases nationwide.
She said the Ministry of Education has also agreed to introduce lessons on reproduction and social health in preschools.
Meanwhile, her own ministry, through its National Youth and Family Development Board, has begun to provide reproductive health services, including social counselling and health screening to teenagers who have had premarital sex, reported Malay Mail.
Last November, Dr Wan Azizah said a few states disagreed with the legal amendment to child marriage laws: