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14-year-old bride triggered a fresh debate on child marriage in Malaysia

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14-year-old bride triggered a fresh debate on child marriage in Malaysia

The public marriage celebration in Malaysia between a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old teacher has triggered a fresh debate on child marriage.

On Saturday, a 14-year-old schoolgirl Siti Maryam Mahood and 23-year-old teacher Abdul Manan Othman celebrated their marriage at a mosque in the Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, after a religious Sharia court approved the union. Siti Maryam said, "It has been hard trying to juggle two roles – as a student and a wife – but I’m taking it in my stride."

Siti’ parents had no objection to the couple and that the Sharia court granted them permission to marry in July.

In Malaysia, Muslims are about 60% of the 28 million populations. For certain issues including family law they are subject to Sharia which operates in parallel with the civil legal system. Muslims below 16 who want to get married must obtain the permission of the religious courts. Those of other religions aged below 17 must have the consent of civil authorities.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the minister for women, family and community development, said in July that underage marriage was "morally and socially unacceptable".

Ivy Josiah, executive director of leading activist group Women’s Aid Organization, said that laws which allow underage marriage in certain cases must be dumped by Malaysia, "The government should set the minimum marriage age of 18 for all races. We need to protect the child," she added.

I also think the underage marriage is absurd…

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