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Statement on the possible inclusion of child marriage in the proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill – UNICEF Malaysia

NEWS RELEASE

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 23, 2017– UNICEF commends the determination of the government of Malaysia to criminalize child sexual abuse and welcomes the proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill

In response to recent calls to include child marriage as a sexual crime, UNICEF warns that integrating child marriage in the proposed Bill would take a strictly punitive approach and would likely drive the practice further underground. That said, under no circumstances should child marriage be used as an excuse for rape or used as a defence by alleged child sexual perpetrators to avoid facing prosecution.   


Addressing child marriage however, requires a comprehensive and broad perspective and recognition of the various social, cultural and economic factors that contribute to the perpetuation of the practice.


On the legislative front, UNICEF favors the approach to raise the age of marriage to 18, without exceptions by amending the Child Act, the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act and the Islamic Family Law in each state in Malaysia. Furthermore, ending child marriage should also include prevention efforts to change the social norms through education and awareness-raising campaigns, early intervention for at-risk groups, and interventions to support children who have been subjected to child marriage.

At the global level, growing evidence shows that the cultural practices, social norms, poverty and gender inequality are some of the root causes of child marriage. In Malaysia, a poll conducted by UNICEF on the LINE app in August, 2016 showed 86 per cent of respondents believe the minimum age to get married should be 18. The outcome of this online survey suggests that many in Malaysia, especially young people, agree that marriage below the age of should not be allowed.

Child marriage has damaging and long term consequences on the child and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation. This harmful practice is one of the worst forms of violation of child rights in society. Whether it happens to a girl or a boy, child marriage not only robs the children from their childhood, but also deprives them from their right to health, education, leisure and play.

A girl who is not yet 18 is not physically and mentally ready to have children, to care for them and look after a family.  

-           Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide, accounting for some 50,000 deaths each year.

-           Girls between 10 -14 years of age are 5 times more likely than women aged 20 - 24 to die in pregnancy and childbirth.  Child “brides” are also more likely to experience discrimination and violence. Financially and socially dependent on their older husbands, they are unable to access legal or social assistance to leave. 

-        Marriage also separates the child from family and friends, and reduces if not completely denies any opportunity to participate in community activities. The girls’ mental, intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical well-being inevitably suffers.

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visithttps://www.unicef.org/.  

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For more information, please contact:

Sugata Roy

Communication Specialist

UNICEF

Contact No. : +60 11 3876 2699

Email: suroy@unicef.org

 

 
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