I refer to the statement of the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim made last year at on 25.2.2016, where she was reported to have said:
"My ministry has always been against early marriage or child marriage as it curbs the mental, physical and psychological development of a child."Let a child be a child and go through that phase before going to study and working because a good career is more important,”
Such a position is laudatory and consistent with the international consensus that the definition of childhood should apply to humans up to the age of 18 years and which is based on scientific evidence. This definition of a child is intended to make sure that the period of care and physical, psychological and social preparation of the child should last for a period that is not less than 18 years which is the age at which that young person may have the physical and emotional maturity to become able to shoulder the various responsibilities expected of him or her, and may be able to make right decisions that will have a prolonged effect on his or her present and future life, such as the decision to get married.
There is ample statistical and medical data that child marriages are a harmful practice and frequently, the basic rights of the girl child are violated, depriving them of their basic right of choice. Such rights include, her right to an education, her right to a life free from violence and abuse (bearing in mind that marital rape remains an exception under the Penal Code) and medical risks which may include HIV infection, death during childbirth and medical conditions like obstetric fistula. We need to highlight the lived realities of these children to expose the grave injustices that they face by condoning the practice of child marriages.