Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Malaysian government has again come under pressure to ban child marriages after another case of a child bride appeared in a poor rural state, the second in weeks.
A 15-year-old teenager became the second wife of a 44-year-old Muslim man in the northeast Kelantan state, the New Straits Times reported. It said that the union was approved in July by the Islamic Shariah court after her parents had agreed because of poverty. The last case occurred in the same month when a dealer in Kelantan rubber married an 11-year-old girl as his third wife, but this week only became public.
Muslim girls under the minimum legal marriage age of 16 can marry with the consent of the Shariah court and their parents. Muslim men can marry up to four women.
The case has led to renewed outrage among rights groups. UNICEF has declared the last child marriage as "unacceptable" in a statement received on Wednesday and urged Malaysia to implement legislative changes to ban practice.
"A new legislation on child marriages must be accompanied by other measures, including compulsory access to secondary education, sexual reproductive health education and poverty reduction," said UNICEF representative in Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh.
The New Straits Times called the girl's parents that they wanted a better life for their daughter, premature school-leavers and the youngest of 13 children.
Likewise, the 11-year-old Thai girl, who lived with her parents in Kelantan, was also a school-leaver of a poor family. A 41-year-old scrap merchant, who has two wives and six children between the ages of 5 and 18, secretly marries the girl in Thailand. The union was made public after one of his women filed a complaint with the police.
The man was later fined by the Shariah court to marry without his permission, but was not accused of a minor marriage. He told the local media that he would formalize marriage by applying for an official certificate within five years when his last wife turns 16. The girl is reportedly sent back to Thailand, where she is placed under welfare.
The Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that the government is investigating the last case, but that the hands are stuck when the marriage has been approved by the Sharia court. She said the government is trying to raise the minimum legal age of marriage for Muslim girls to 18 years, the same as under civil law.
Malaysia follows a two-track right system. Almost two-thirds of the 31 million inhabitants of Malaysia are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in the areas of family, marriage and personal issues.
Rights group Advocaten for Liberty urged the police to question the man in the latter case for "sexual care" because he reportedly knew the girl a few months before the marriage. It warned that "pedophiles now clearly use the marriage as a shield to prevent persecution for rape or sexual care" after the government's failure to act.
"This puts the children of this country, especially Muslim children, at constant risk for perverts and pedophiles," Executive Director Latheefa Koya said in a statement.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said it was concerned that parents can now legally resort to selling & # 39; their children under the guise of a marriage.
"It now seems that poverty can also be a reason accepted by the Sharia court to approve an application for marriage of a minor child, which in turn seems to treat children as mere goods," said President Razali. Ismail. He called for social protection for children in poverty and repeated calls for government to ban child marriages.
Government officials have said that about 15,000 child marriages have been registered in the past 10 years, two-thirds of them with Muslims.