If you were at Sunway Pyramid last Saturday and happened to see a crowd of people walking determinedly down the front stretch (in the rain!), here’s what they were doing: rallying to protest against child marriage.
Organised by The Body Shop Malaysia, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), the walk actually marked the launch of a petition campaign to urge the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years– with no exceptions, regardless of gender, faith, and ethnicity. And in case anyone thinks this is a big ask, this promise is actually part of Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 election manifesto!
“The fact that child marriage is rampant in our country means that we’re failing our children,” said Meera Samanther, Vice-President of WAO. “This is not an issue for one community, race or religion to deal with. There are many who are attempting to cloud the issue by making it appear that way. But to truly tackle this issue and end child marriage, we must stand together to safeguard the childhood of all children in Malaysia.”
The laws that the group wants amended are the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Islamic Family Law, the Child Act 2001, the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, the Age of Majority Act, the Penal Code, the Syariah Criminal Offences Act, the Native Courts Enactment 1992 in Sabah, and various native customary laws in Sarawak.
According to Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, Managing Director of The Body Shop Malaysia, it’s not just legal reform that matters. “We need to change public perception, achieve gender sensitisation, institute comprehensive sexuality education, and empower youths in order to completely end child marriage,” she said.
The petition will go on until 30 September 2018, when they will be handed over to the Minister of Women and Family Development, Minister of Religion and Minister of Law.
Find out more and sign the petition to End Child Marriage here!