KUCHING: Sarawakians support the increase in minimum marriage age for girls in the state from 16 to 18 years.
Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) president Margaret Bedus said the society strongly supports this move as a girl at 16 is still a child and too young to take responsibility as a parent both physically and psychologically.
“This will prevent her from getting a good education and restrict her from achieving her full potential. Instead, we should strengthen the awareness of the whole community on the adverse effects of early marriage for children,” she said when contacted Thursday.
She pointed out that the media could play a crucial role in increasing awareness.
“We know there have been discussions by the relevant ministries and agencies but more need to be done. There should be more concerted efforts by religious bodies and ethnic groups to work this out for this issue to be addressed and corrected.”
Meanwhile, a parent, Nazrieman Bujang, 46, who is an administrative assistant shared the same view, saying 16 is still the age for girls to grow up.
The father of four, including two girls said that girls should focus on their studies for a good future and good values.
“Parents should advise their children on this. Once they settle down, they won’t have much time as they have to take care of the family and shoulder responsibilities. They won’t have time for themselves anymore,” he said.
Janet Tikut, SK St Mary headmistress is also of the same opinion.
She thinks that urban girls are not matured enough at 16 to start a family and shoulder responsibilities as they are always on their gadgets, laptop and social media.
She added that though the education system here is advanced, at 16 with only PT3 qualification, they won’t be able to get proper job.
“Now the focus is on Industry 4.0. We want our youths to participate in it so that our country will become a developed nation. We need to equip our girls with knowledge and education because without that life would be hard.
“Even at 18, I think they are still too young. They should continue their studies after 18 and secure their future.”
She added that parents should ensure the young generation know the dangers of early marriage and religion should be emphasised to prevent teenagers from engaging in pre-marital sex and underage pregnancy.
“If they marry young at 16 and end up being divorced, they have to go out to find a job. They would be left behind because all they have is PT3, not even SPM. Even with SPM it’s hard to get jobs,” she said.
They were commenting on Sarawak being among seven states which have yet to raise the minimum age for marriage for girls to 18. Currently only the civil law sets it at 18, whilst the Sarawak Customs Council does not state any minimum age.
According to a Bernama report on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the draft of the National Strategic Plan to tackle the problem of underage marriages was at the final stage.
She said Islamic family laws on marriage comes under the jurisdiction of states by Schedule 9, Part 2 – States List of the Federal Constitution.
Selangor had already amended an enactment to raise the age to 18 while the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) was in the process of drafting the amendments to the Islamic Family Law Act 1984 (Act 303) to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslim girls in the Federal Territories to 18, which was previously 16.