Introduction of Child Marriage
Currently, the minimum age of marriage in Malaysia is 16 for females and 18 for males. However, upon discretion, the syariah courts can use discretion to give written permission for the marriage of minors. In fact, the state of Perak does not even have a minimum age of marriage.
This raises serious questions about Malaysia’s commitment to upholding the rights of girls, especially since we have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. More importantly, though, child marriage is questionable as a universal “Islamic” practice. For example, in the 2004 revision of its Muslim family law, Morocco set the legal age of marriage at 18 for males and females – yet who would accuse Morocco of being “un-Islamic”?
Furthermore, the secrecy and ambiguities involved in child marriage raise disturbing questions about how consent for marriage is obtained and what exact role the wali (or bride’s guardian) plays.