Ending child marriage through law amendment

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Attorney General’s Department and a special committee have prepared a cabinet paper related to the Amendment to the Rules of the Native Court Enactment.

Former Assistant Law and Indigenous Affairs minister Jannie Lasimbang said the Local Government and Housing ministry will present the paper to the cabinet soon.

She added she had started the process of amending this law when she was in the government.

Among other measures was to stop Marriage Under the Age of 18 (PBU18) in Sabah as contained in the 10-Year Action Plan.

The Action Plan is the result of a study and fora between various government agencies, non-governmental organizations and community leaders.

The current effort to continue the implementation of the Action Plan involves the Ministry of Community Development and People’s Welfare which will focus on social education, while the Ministry of Local Government and Housing’s focus is on amending laws and training Native Court personnel.

Jannie added that PBU18 brings various negative implications from the social and health aspects of a child and woman. The key issues raised by the Dialogue participants from among the District and Native Chiefs included rising divorce cases, the cycle of poverty as well as suffering and mental stress especially among children who have become pregnant.

“Therefore, in conjunction with the amendment and implementation of the law regarding PBU18, it is also important to conduct social education through campaigns on social media and in rural communities. Various options other than forcing pregnant children to marry at a young age should be considered such as registering as single mothers or giving their children up for adoption.

“I appreciate all the efforts by PACOS Trust in running social education programs with secondary schools and young workers, and as expressed by the Dialogue participants, to continue enhancing efforts with government departments to find funds for the next program”.

“I really hope that the Amendment is approved soon so that the Native Affairs Department, the Native Court Training Institute and the State Attorney General’s Department can provide training to district or native chiefs who clearly during the Dialogue expressed the need for guidelines and Practice Directions in dealing with PBU18 applications.

“The Native Courts in Sabah will have to be prepared to deal with cases related to applications for marriages below 18 years once the legal amendments are approved by Cabinet,” she said during the opening of the “Dialogue on issues regarding amendments to limiting age of marriage under the Native Court Enactment, especially the Rules on Native Customary Law” organised by PACOS Trust.

The Kapayan assemblyman was representing Datuk Ewon Benedick, the Penampang Member of Parliament.

Thus far, marriage according to customary laws in Sabah does not have a minimum age limit, and it can still be performed with the permission of the District/Native chiefs in the Native Courts.

The move to amend the marriage age limit is in line with Malaysia’s role and responsibilities as a country that is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which provides for the rights of children to be protected from all forms of violence and persecution as well as women’s rights in relation to marriage.


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