Malaysia proposes raising marriage age for Muslim girls

Malaysia has proposed to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 for Muslim girls in a bid to reduce teenage pregnancy rates and enhance social protection for minors. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has engaged stakeholders, including various state religious affairs authorities, on the proposed amendment to the existing Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act, said its minister Rohani Abdul Karim on November 7. In Malaysia, Muslim girls below the age of 16 must obtain the permission of Islamic courts to get married, but child rights activists say such permission is too readily granted. The system has reportedly been abused by rapists who marry their underage victims – some as young as 13 – to avoid jail terms. The minister was speaking at a child rights forum organised by UNICEF in Kuala Lumpur. A special task force led by the country’s law minister has been formed to look into specific amendments to the law.

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