Last three years the country has seen an average of 15,000 reported underage pregnancies. However ministry speculate the actual number maybe a few times more as most cases from rural Malaysia don't get reported at all. Aegile Fernandez, a women's rights activist told Channel News Asia that this is a very welcoming decision by the ministry as Islamic law currently supersede the general law of the country which has put young girls in great danger.
Muslim girls below marriageable age can marry if the Sharia court determines so. Activists allege that this has now have become an epidemic as very young girls, sometimes as young as 12 gets married using the system. Pedophiles and Rapists are using this opportunity to satisfy their wildest desires because even after a raping a young child you can easily go to Sharia court and marry the victim to avoid both a likely jail term for the offender and public shame for the victim's family.
Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said that they would increase marriageable age despite huge pressure from Islamic conservatives. "We hope to increase the marriageable age for girls to 18 and there will be no exemption" he said.
Can this stop Child marriages and child rapes ?
Addressing a conference organised by UNICEF in Malaysia, the minister of Women, Family and Community Development said that a committee is appointed to look at the loopholes in the laws altogether. He said the approach with be a multi stakeholder one that includes religious leaders as well.
When the minister was questioned asking if he is going to introduce a new law that would prevent rapists marrying their victims to avoid punishment, she stated that it is a key aspect in the plan. "We will broaden the definition for rape, and that itself would strengthen the law," she said.
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