Sunday, July 21

‘Bill to raise minimum marriage age’


Fatimah speaks to journalists. Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: Sarawak is looking to pass a Bill in the next State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting to raise the minimum marriage age to 18.

Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said her ministry is in the process of gathering resolutions from various parties.

Met by journalists here yesterday, she said these resolutions were adopted by various organisations during the recent race and culture-related symposium.

She added that most of the sessions of the symposium she had attended supported “our call to raise the minimum marriage age to 18”.

“But there are windows, meaning if there is any indiscretion (keterlanjuran) like pregnancy outside marriage and the pregnant girl is below 18, there are procedures to comply with,” she said after attending a function at the state Youth and Sports Complex here.

Fatimah pointed out that there are procedures under either the Adat Istiadat Court or the Syariah Court to be adhered to by those who fall below the legitimate age in order to tie the knot.

Once the ministry is done compiling the resolutions, she said they will bring the compiled papers to the State Attorney General (SAG) for advice.

“SAG can advise us on how we can draft the Bill. And before the Bill is brought to the DUN, it will be discussed in the (state) Cabinet first.

“So the drafting of the Bill is also another area we need to look into. This, we request for the assistance of SAG,” added the Dalat assemblywoman.

Asked whether the Bill will be tabled in the next DUN sitting, Fatimah replied: “Hopefully.”

To another question, she explained: “(The next DUN sitting takes place) usually mid-year, maybe before Hari Raya (Aidilfitri). This, I can’t be certain.”

She was quick to add: “We usually have two sittings a year – one in the mid-year and the other during year-end.”

The Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration is expected early June next year. The last DUN sitting concluded last Wednesday.

Apart from this, Fatimah said the ministry is also working closely with SAG on an amendment Bill for the Sarawak Adoption Ordinance 1958.

According to her, several issues pertaining to child adoption have been brought up by individuals who adopt a child.

“We have had roundtable discussions, and we have to draft the amendment Bill with the assistance of SAG, and then bring it to the (state) Cabinet.

“If any changes (proposed by SAG), we will amend accordingly and then table it in DUN,” added Fatimah.