KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government "unequivocally" opposes child marriages and is already taking steps to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, said Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in a press statement on Tuesday (Jul 17).
Dr Wan Azizah was commenting on the case of a 41-year-old Malaysian man who recently married an 11-year-old girl in Kelantan.
"We note the distress caused and the concerns raised by the incident," said Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Minister of Women, Family and Community Development.
She cautioned, however, against prejudging the case.
"It is not wise to prejudge the issue before all the evidence is brought together and the investigation is complete," said Dr Wan Azizah.
She added: "It is important to not let our personal feelings dictate the course of actions we should take.
"It would be unjust to lynch someone by social media because of how we feel about the issue."
This is not the first time that Dr Wan Azizah has commented on the matter.
On Jul 2, shortly after the case come to light, she said that the government is committed to tackling the issue of child marriages, adding that the man will be investigated for sexual grooming.
“The specific incident in Gua Musang is still under active investigation by multiple agencies. We are coordinating this investigation,” she said in her statement on Tuesday.
"Our stand is clear and has consistently been the one expressed on Jul 2."
Berita Harian Online reported that the Kelantanese man, Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid, took the 11-year-old Thai girl as his third wife last month.
Che Abdul Karim reportedly made known his intention to marry the girl when she was seven years old.
He already has two wives and six children and is said to be the imam of a surau (prayer house), according to The Star.
On Jul 10, the Gua Musang syariah court fined him RM1,800 (US$445) for marrying a minor without prior consent from the court and for engaging in polygamy without permission from his spouse.
Dr Wan Azizah said that the government has to act based on Federal laws.
“As the government, we have to act within the law of the federation. This is what the rule of law means. The actions we take in dealing with this alleged incident of child marriage must be based on evidence," she said.
“We will issue a statement on this matter only after the investigation is complete."