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Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa says consensus needs to be reached among syariah and civil lawmakers on what can be done to improve child rights. File pic by SHAIFUL SHAHRIN AHMAD PAUZI

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa has condemned underage marriages and wants a review of laws that allow such marriages to take place.

Mujahid, who is the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, said a consensus needs to be reached among syariah and civil lawmakers on what can be done to improve child rights.

"We need to improve the laws by having syariah and civil lawmakers sit together in order to come to a consensus in meeting the contemporary needs for child rights," he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.

He said his ministry is ready to meet all relevant stakeholders, including the Syariah Judicial Department, to address the matter.

He was quoted as saying that such children are exploited based on their ‘social status’, due to factors such as poverty.

"Unfortunately, our laws permit a girl under 16 years old to marry by getting permission. For (underage) civil law (marriage), they can get permission from the menteri besar.

"We would like to protect our children from being exploited, especially if the marriage is justified in the name of Islam.

"Islam protects children with care and love so they can grow and contribute to the nation's growth," he was quoted as saying.

Mujahid was responding to a statement on Tuesday by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who had said that a union between a 41-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl in Gua Musang, Kelantan, was still being investigated.

Meanwhile, Dr Wan Azizah’s statement was roundly criticised by Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya, who said the minister’s call for the public not to “jump the gun” and criticise the man on social media was “incomprehensible.”

“Why defend this self-confessed pervert by claiming that the concerned public are ‘lynching’ him?

“Is this an attempt to stifle public discussion of the matter? The public are entitled to criticise the actions of the culprit and call for an end to child marriages in Malaysia.

“This discussion is important and should be encouraged,” she said in a statement.

Latheefa said it was impossible to understand what Dr Wan Azizah means by ‘alleged incident’ as the culprit himself had admitted to the marriage, and been fined for it.

“Worse, he has also publicly admitted to lusting after the child victim since she was seven-years-old.

“It appears to be another attempt by the deputy prime minister to downplay this outrageous case,” she said.

She said it was baffling that Dr Wan Azizah still claimed that multiple agencies are investigating the matter despite the perpetrator having confessed to his action.

“What is the necessity for an interminable and ponderous investigation in this case? The public rightly want action taken, not more excuses and stalling.”

Latheefa said it was absurd to talk about family’s ‘privacy’ to be protected when serious sexual crime has been perpetrated upon a child.

“This poor child remains in the hands of a self-confessed paedophile, to the international embarrassment of our country.

“More surprising is that no arrest has been made under anti child-grooming provisions in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017,” she said.

She said the continued failure to take concrete action on this case is an affront against justice, decency and the rule of law.

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