Child Marriage in Malaysia
The issues of child marriage have evolved over the year, which is evident through news and critics comment from academician through publishing articles. Nevertheless, child marriage is still allowed in Malaysia and just last year, as Malay Mail published on 4th December 2020, 543 child marriage cases, including applications were recorded.
Section 2 of the Age of Majority Act 1971 states that eighteen (18) is the age of majority but Section 4(a) of the said Act states that it does not affect the capacity of a person to marry and both the Civil Courts and Syariah Courts took different point of view, to which, the Syariah Courts are more inclined towards Section 4(2) which stated that even person below age of 18 is able to give consent in marriage related matters.
The legal system governing marriage of non-Muslims is under civil law and in particular the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (hereinafter referred to as LRA 1976) as well as dealt with in the Civil Courts. The minimum age requirement for both male and female to get married under Section 10 of LRA 1976 is the age of eighteen (18), although parental consent are required for those under the age of 21. However, there is an exception, as Section 10 of LRA 1976 provides that, a female who has completed her sixteenth year (16), the solemnization of such marriage can be authorized by a license granted by the Chief Minister under subsection 21(2) LRA 1976.
The procedures in applying for marriage, as according to the Official Portal of National Registration Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, license are required to be obtained before submission of marriage registration application. For instance, those who has not completed the age of 21 but having completed 18 years of age, written consent as noted in the previous paragraph are required to apply for JPN.KC01C without a fee imposed. However, a fee of RM10.00 will be charged (if approved) for application for marriage licence (JPN.KC01E) for female below 18 years of age but attained 16 years with approval from the Chief Minister as highlighted in the previous paragraph. Then, applications for the marriage need to submitted in person to the National Registration Department’s counter.
The legal system governing marriage of Muslims is under the Islamic law according to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territory) Act 1984 (hereinafter referred to as IFLA 1984) and are dealt with in the Syariah courts. Under IFLA 1984, the minimum age required for the male to get married is the age of eighteen (18) while for female of the age of sixteen (16). The exception to the aforesaid rule only applies, when the Syariah Judge has granted his permission in writing in certain circumstances. Further, it is worth noting that, since 1983, the states began enacting Islamic family law. Hence, procedures for Muslim marriage are provided in each state’s Islamic law enactments and application to marriage can be made directly to the Registrar of Marriage Divorce and Reconciliation (Rujuk) without going to Syariah Court. For example, Islamic Family Law Enactment of Selangor 2003.
The application for such marriage must be served at least seven days before the wedding by the groom and bride and when permission to marry is given by the legal guardian (wali), the wedding ceremony must be performed either by a wali or a representative of it before the Registrar. Then, the marriage is solemnized when the groom accepts the marital agreement between man and woman to make a family (aqad). After that, the marriage ceremony is completed and the groom is required to read the pronouncement of taklik (the legal effect of which poses certain conditions on the marriage. Once completed, the parties will be given a certificate of marriage and will be registered under the state’s Islamic law.
As a conclusion, education and upbringing of the family play an important role to build the rational and mature mind set of the youngsters today in order to reduce the rate of child marriage in Malaysia, as many academician (Child Marriages in Malaysia – A Myth or Phenomenom’ (2021), ‘Preventing Child Marriage Practice in Malaysia to Protect Children’s Rights’ (2021) and ‘Child Marriage in Malaysia (Working Paper)’ 2018) had showed that especially young female in child marriage suffered from various negative implications including but not limited to health and psychological distress.
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This article is written by
Amy Lo Mei Chin
Partner, Lo & Partners