An online poll by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) in Malaysia shows 86% agree the minimum legal age for marriage in the country should be 18.
However, almost 50% of female respondents said the minimum age should be 21.
The poll on 771 people, conducted to get views on child marriage, was done in response to a recent case in Sarawak in which a rape suspect had married the victim who was 14 at the time the rape was said to have taken place.
The victim is now 15.
Almost 95% of the respondents in the poll agreed that marrying a 14-year-old girl was not right.
“Simply put, child marriage robs children of their childhood and is a violation of their rights.
“It’s heartening to see through this informal poll that, in general, Malaysians, especially young people and women, do not support child marriage,” said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, the representative for Unicef Malaysia in a statement today.
She was of the opinion that marrying before a person is physically developed and mature risked physical and emotional consequences.
According to the statement, child marriage, which frequently inhibits a child’s basic rights to health, education and protection from harm, is condemned in international conventions.
This includes the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), both of which Malaysia has acceded to.
Unicef maintains its commitment to end child marriages in Malaysia as one of its priorities here.
In the child marriage case, which raised a storm in Malaysia, Ahmad Syukri Yusuf was initially given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on a rape charge because he married the victim.
The storm led to the Kuching High Court reinstating the statutory rape case after Deputy Public Prosecutor Abdul Hamiz Abdul Hamid appealed for a revision of the decision, as reported by The Borneo Post.