Child marriage is a human rights violation
Press Statement – 5 April 2017
Child marriage is a human rights violation. In some countries, there are laws against it and yet the practice remains widespread. There are several reasons for this practice, which includes gender inequality where girls are not valued as much as boys. Child marriage is also driven by patriarchal values and the desire to control female sexuality. Other reasons include poverty and insecurity, causing parents to want to secure the girl’s safety and future through marriage.
Although child marriages may be acceptable in some countries, Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (SIROM) is unable to accept the above and states with conviction that such practices must cease. As an organisation that advocates for the rights and safety of women and girls we would like to assert that stern laws be brought into force to stop child marriages.
We are deeply shocked by the remarks of the former Syariah court judge and MP for Tasek Gelugor Datuk Shabudin Yahya for the comments he made in Parliament on the issue of child sexual offences and the fact that in some circumstances, marriage to the rapist is acceptable and indeed good for the child. How can marriage to the rapist negate the crime? His insensitive remarks are totally uncalled for and must be sanctioned.
A child has a right to be protected and feel safe in our society. We have a duty to protect child rights and understand that the child deserves a future. If a child is married off at the age of 9, she will not receive the education she deserves and will have to bear the risk of early pregnancy and childbirth. Children and minors have very little understanding of the concept of marriage and should not be forced into it, to keep the peace. The psychological and physiological impact of such a violation on a young person must not be ignored. As such we need to protect the children. We are perturbed when people responsible for the process of law making speak irresponsibly.
It is regrettable that Malaysia has a poor history of dealing with rapists of children as noted by the articles below.
Legally a child is defined as someone below the age of 18. The Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 states that the minimum age for a girl to enter marriage is 16 and that can only be done with the consent of the chief minister. Touching a child inappropriately without her permission is a sexual offence under the present Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 that is being debated. Sexual intercourse with a minor below the age of 16 is statutory rape, regardless of consent, and shall not be deemed permissible by any law or in any manner.
Dr Saradha Narayanan
Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia
Samples of local and international news coverage of this issue:
The Guardian (UK) “Rape Victims should marry their rapists, Malaysian MP tells parliament”
The Straits Times (Singapore) “Okay for rapists to marry victims, even some 9-year-old girls can marry: Malaysian MP”
Arab News (Middle East) “Outrage as Malaysian MP says girls as young as 9 are fit for marriage”
The New Straits Times (Malaysia) “Rape victims can have a good life if they marry their rapists: Tasek Gelugor MP”
The Washington Post (USA) “Malaysian lawmaker says rapists could marry their victims — even if they are children”
Pakistan Today (Pakistan) “Rape Victims can lead healthy and good life if they marry their attackers says Malaysian lawmaker”
Jakarta Globe (Indonesia) “Malaysia passes child sex crimes law, does not ban child marriage”
The issue was also covered by the following news sites. Click on the links to the articles.
The Inquirer (Philippines),
Top News Philippines (Philippines)
Jagruk Bharat (India)
South China Morning Post (China)
Click Ittefaq (Bangladesh)
Asian Correspondent (Regional)
Gulf News (Regional)
Vijesti RTL (Croatia)
Diretta News (Italy)
Noviny Newspaper (Slovakia)
Gazeta Express (Kosovo)
In Cyprus (Cyprus)
Magyar Hirlap (Hungary)
Reuters (200 countries worldwide)
i955fm (Trinidad Tobago)