Girls as young as nine are “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage, a Malaysian MP says, also claiming there’s “nothing wrong” with females marrying their rapists. It comes after Malaysia failed to criminalize child marriage in a recent law.
“They reach puberty at the age of nine or 12. And at that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old. So physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry,” Shabudin Yahaya, a member of the Barisan Nasional Coalition, told Parliament on Tuesday, as quoted by Reuters.
He went on to say there is “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying the man who raped her, as doing so would allow her to avoid a “bleak future.”
“Perhaps through marriage they can lead a healthier, better life. And the person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems,” he said, as quoted by Malaysian newspaper the Star.
Shabudin’s comments have prompted outrage online, including from fellow government minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who said he received the comments with “utter shock and disappointment.”
Others accused Shabudin of “perpetuating a rape culture” with his remarks. Some suggested the minister take his own advice when it comes to marrying rapists.
However, it appears Shabudin isn’t the only MP in favor of child marriages. A proposal by an opposition member in parliament to amend the Sexual Offenses Against Children bill to include a ban on child marriages was struck down on Tuesday.
Under Islamic law, children younger than 16 can get married if the Sharia courts allow it.
Malaysia’s civil law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, but those above 16 can be married with the permission of their state’s chief minister.
Despite failing to criminalize child marriage, parliament did pass a law on Tuesday which criminalizes ‘grooming’, the touching and befriending of children with the intent to sexually abuse them, and outlines penalties for making and possessing pornography involving those under the age of 18.
A special court will also be set up to deal with child sexual abuse cases more quickly.
The vast majority of child sexual abuse in Malaysia does not result in successful prosecutions, largely due to weaknesses in the criminal justice system, Reuters reported last year.
Only 140 of the 12,987 cases of child sexual abuse cases reported to authorities between 2012 and July 2016 resulted in convictions.