The Government has an obligation to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls
20 December 2021
We refer to statement given by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Idris Ahmad that the government will be maintaining the minimum marriage age Muslim girls at 16 years old.
With Malaysia having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW’) in 1995, the government is duty bound to give effect to Article 16(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (‘CEDAW), which is to take all necessary action to prevent child marriages.
The definition of ‘children’ has been clearly stipulated under our own Age of Majority Act 1971 which declares that anyone under the age of 18 years old are minors under the law. This is in line with the definition given under Article 1 of the Conventions on the Rights of Child (‘CRC’), which Malaysia also ratified in 1995.
The Federal List under Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution unequivocally states that the implementation of international treaties is well within the purview of the Federal Government. The government cannot shirk its obligation under international law by justifying that the issue of marriage of Muslim girls are within the exclusive powers of the State. By opting to use this excuse, the government is knowingly breaching Malaysia’s international obligation under CEDAW and CRC, which is an internationally wrongful act.
Thus, the Federal Government must take all necessary steps to ensure State Governments raise the minimum marriageable age for Muslim girls to honour Malaysia’s obligation under CEDAW. If they do not relent, then the Federal Government is duty bound to make necessary amendments to the Federal Constitution to give itself the power to raise the minimum marriage age of Muslim girls, and outlaw child marriages in the country once and for all.
Lawyers for Liberty