The highly charged issue of child marriages in Malaysia has yet to dissipate since news broke of a forty one year old man from Kelantan taking an eleven year old bride as his third wife back in June. It caused a furore of criticisms, objections and even open support by some quarters over yet another matter that is highly sensitive in a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation. However a positive development in the central state of Selangor has given hope to the many Malaysians that object to the idea of child marriages.
Selangor made history on Wednesday, fifth September 2018 when it passed necessary amendments to raise the minimum age for Muslim females to marry to eighteen years old from sixteen years old previously. Non-muslims in the state and country are subjected to civil law which dictates eighteen years old as the minimum legal age to marry.
In his opening Royal Address at the opening of the second session of the fourteenth Selangor Legislative Assembly on Monday, third September 2018, His Royal Highness Sultan Sharafuddin decreed ” I view such cases (child marriages) seriously because of the negative impact on the couple’s future as well as its implications on society”.
The Selangor state assembly, which is under Pakatan Harapan coalition government control, tabled amendments to the Islamic Family Law (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 and the Syariah Court Civil Procedure (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 in regards to underage marriage.
The amendments were debated and passed on Wednesday evening, third September 2018, raising the permissible age for Muslim females to marry from sixteen to eighteen years old. The minimum age of eighteen years old is maintained for Muslim males in the state.
However, the Syariah court in Selangor is still allowed to permit underage marriages provided certain conditions are met. This would include a filling of an application by the guardians or parents of the child.
In his official twitter, Chief Minister of Selangor Amirudin Shari was very much pleased to share the news of the historical importance of Selangor becoming the first state in Malaysia to set the minimum age of marriage for Muslims from sixteen to eighteen. Amirudin graciously thanked His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor for consenting to the amemdment.
Check out @AmirudinShari’s Tweet:
Sidang Dewan kali ini mencatat sejarah apabila Selangor menjadi negeri pertama dalam Malaysia meminda dan menetapkan had umur minimum perkahwinan pasangan Islam dari 16 tahun ke 18 tahun. Saya menjunjung kasih titah DYMM Sultan Selangor. #SidangDewanNegeriSelangor2018
— Amirudin Shari (@AmirudinShari) September 5, 2018
Indeed it is a fitting achievement for a state such as Selangor. It is by far the most populous and wealthiest state in Malaysia and has been at the forefront of pioneering changes ever since it was wrested away from then Barisan Nasional-led government by Pakatan Rakyat (later becoming Pakatan Harapan) in a shocking victory during the 2008 general elections.
Among the pioneering citizen-centric changes implemented by the Selangor state government are free water supply of up to twenty cubic metres per household, free bus services, education trust fund for children born in the state, free tuition classes,free Wi-fi coverage, medical cards, micro credit business loans and even a youth marriage incentive scheme etc all funded by state revenues. These schemes have all become the standard by which other states in Malaysia seek to emulate and implement.
And so raising the minimum age for muslim marriages is just another feather in the cap for a state like Selangor that strives to lead the way to better care for its residents.