Over 200 students and members of the public turned up for a rally today in a roaring show of support to end child marriage in Bandar Sunway.
The event, jointly organised by The Body Shop Malaysia, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), marked the launch of the group’s petition campaign to urge the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years, with no exceptions, regardless of gender, faith, and ethnicity. This is in line with the promise made in Commitment 4.2 of the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto.
“The fact that child marriage is rampant in our country means that we’re failing our children,” says Meera Samanther, Vice-President of WAO.
“This is not an issue for one community, race or religion to deal with. There are many who are attempting to cloud the issue by making it appear that way. But to truly tackle this issue and end child marriage, we must stand together to safeguard the childhood of all children in Malaysia,” she added.
The laws that the group wants amended are the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Islamic Family Law, the Child Act 2001, the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, the Age of Majority Act, the Penal Code, the Syariah Criminal Offences Act, the Native Courts Enactment 1992 in Sabah, and various native customary laws in Sarawak.
Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, Managing Director of The Body Shop Malaysia says that beyond legal reform, we need to change public perception, achieve gender sensitisation, institute comprehensive sexuality education, and empower youths in order to completely end child marriage.
The group also calls upon the government to ensure that marriage is not used as an instrument to legitimise and justify sexual crimes against children.
The petition, which started on 1 August 2018, has already collected almost 20,000 signatures. The campaign will go on until 30 September 2018 before the petitions are handed over to the Minister of Women and Family Development, Minister of Religion and Minister of Law.