Most number of child marriages, applications recorded in Sarawak this year

MalayMail filepix – for illustration only

By John Isaac

SARAWAK topped the list with the most number of child marriages, including applications in the country from Jan – Sept this year, said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

From the total 543 child marriages nationwide, Sarawak recorded 83 cases, followed by Kelantan (80 cases) and Sabah (63 cases).

The ministry said the Syariah Judiciary Department Malaysia’s (JKSM) records for Muslim couples showed that there were 520 applications for underage marriages recorded from early January to September 2020.

According to reports in the Malay Mail, the ministry however did not say how many of these applications were approved, and did not provide the number of child marriage applications by Muslims for other states.

As for non-Muslim couples, the ministry said the National Registration Department’s (NRD) records showed 23 underage marriages recorded in the same January to September 2020 period, with the highest in Sarawak (seven cases), followed by Selangor (six cases).

The ministry appeared to indicate possible gaps and deficiencies in Malaysia’s official child marriage statistics, noting: “As you know, data on underage marriage recorded by various agencies differ in definitions and have different age ranges, including non-Muslim customary marriages not recorded by the NRD.”

“In relation to that, the latest data that can provide an accurate picture about marriages as a whole under the age of 18 is 2018 data based on statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia.

“In 2018, a total of 1,856 children were involved in marriages under the age of 18, with 1,674 of Bumiputera ethnicity, 100 of Chinese ethnicity, 20 of Indian ethnicity, and 62 from other ethnicities,” the ministry said in a recent parliamentary reply.

The ministry was replying to Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, who had asked for the child marriage statisics in both the civil and Shariah courts since January 2020 and their locations, as well as the progressin government’s efforts to curb child marriages and towards the seven states in Malaysia that disagreed with fixing the minimum age for marriage at 18.

Previously, the ministry had on August 16, 2018 in the Dewan Rakyat said that JKSM’s records showed that there were 5,362 applications for marriages below the age of 18 for Muslim couples from 2013 to 2017, while the NRD’s records showed 2,367 marriages below the age of 18 for non-Muslim couples from 2013 to 2017.