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Child marriages set to continue in Malaysia

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Earlier today, the Malaysian law minister resolutely refused to ban underage marriage, in spite of the furore over the recent wedding of a teenage schoolgirl.

The Muslim bride, aged just 14, was married to a teacher nine years her elder last July.  Siti Maryam Mahmod, who is still attending school, was granted permission by an Islamic Sharia court to take part in a mass wedding at a mosque in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Sharia law runs in parallel with civil law in multi-ethnic Malaysia, and Malaysian Muslims below the age of 16 are allowed to marry if they secure permission from the religious courts.

Nazri Aziz, a minister in the premier’s department in charge of legal affairs, said the government has no plan to review laws allowing for underage marriages because the practice is permitted under Islam.

‘If the religion allows it, then we can’t legislate against it,’ he told a press conference.

‘Islam allows it as long as the girl is considered to have reached her pubescent stage, once she has her menstruation,’ he added.

The marriage also prompted Women, Family and Community Development Minister – Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil – to reiterate the government’s position.

‘Our stance is, we are not for child marriages. I want to be very clear here. As far as the government is concerned, a wedding does not make a marriage,’ she said at the Barisan Nasional Convention on Sunday.

Read more in the Straits Times and the New Straits Times.

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