KUCHING: Bidayuh community leaders are mulling over imposing a minimum age of 16 for marriage in the Bidayuh Customs for Marriage and Divorce law in a bid to curb child pregnancies.
Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong said there was no minimum age limit in Bidayuh customary laws and this was often abused leading to broken marriages and danger to girls who gave birth too young.
“So as an effort to check on this we have ordered community leaders, especially the Penghulu, who are responsible to register marriage and divorce under the Bidayuh Customs not to endorse the marriage of females below 16.
“In Serian the community leaders now don’t register the marriage if the female partner is under 16 years old and I expect community leaders in other districts like Kuching and Bau will also follow suit,” he said.
He said this when delivering his keynote address at the Bidayuh Council of Elders meeting with Community Leaders and Village Headmen at Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) headquarters here yesterday.
The meeting was jointly chaired by Kuching Bidayuh community leader Temenggong Austin Dimin Niyon and his Serian counterpart Temenggong Henry Bujang Sadok and attended by community leaders in Kuching and Serian divisions to discuss issues affecting the community as a whole.
“We don’t want our children to get married at a very young age when they should still be schooling but if they still insist then they should wait until they reach the age of 16,” he said.
He said even under National Registration Department (JPN) marriage and divorce rules and regulations the authority also will not register the marriage if the female partners were below 16.
“Many cases of early marriages end with divorce and this later will lead to some serious social problems in our society especially when they already have children.
“So for our community to progress we must try to do something about this,” he stressed.
He said that being a minority group in the state the Bidayuh need to strive harder and capitalise on all opportunities available to be on par if not better than other races.