PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said on Wednesday (Sep 19) that the marriage of a 15-year-old girl to a 44-year-old man in Kelantan, which was reported on Tuesday, was based on mutual consent.
The New Straits Times said that poverty forced the girl's parents to allow their youngest daughter to marry the 44-year-old man, who is married with two children.
They said their daughter did not object to the marriage.
Dr Wan Azizah said on Wednesday that based on the report of the Social Welfare Department (JKM), the marriage was based on mutual agreement.
"We found that the girl was married to a widower who had gone through a divorce for four years … The girl was not a second wife,” said Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Minister for Women, Family and Community Development.
Dr Wan Azizah also said that she had informed the Cabinet on Wednesday on efforts that are actively being made to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 years.
She said the government was concerned about underage marriages and the negative consequences on the girls in terms of social, health, education and financial aspects.
Dr Wan Azizah said efforts to raise the marriage age for girls required the cooperation of various agencies and legislative amendments.
“Some laws are under state laws and some under the Syariah court. To amend the Penal Code, it will involve constitutional amendments,” she said.
For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but exceptions can be made for them to marry at a younger age if they obtain the Islamic courts’ consent.
Under civil law, non-Muslims can marry from the age of 18 but girls can do so as early as 16, provided they get the permission of the state chief minister.
On Sep 13, Dr Wan Azizah led a committee comprising various relevant agencies on reaching a consensus on raising the minimum marriage age for girls to 18 years old.
“Efforts are actively carried out to implement the move by the relevant agencies to ensure it could be achieved immediately,” she added.