KUALA LUMPUR : United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) today welcomed the decision by the Attorney-General Chamber and Sabah Welfare Department to protect the best interests of the 13-year-old who was married by a 40-year-old man who allegedly raped her.
Unicef Malaysia in a statement today said the government’s quick action and strong concerns by various NGOs would help protect the child from futher harm and prevent her from joining the growing number of child brides globally.
According to its statement, the girl who was already married should be supported with options for schooling, sexual and reproductive health and services including HIV prevention, livelihoods skills and recourse from violence in the home.
Unicef cautioned that being married at a young age not only curbed a girl’s right to education, but also endangered her health as complications from pregnancy and childbirth were the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide, accounting for some 50,000 deaths each year.
“Moreover, girls between 10 and 14 years of age are five times more likely than women aged 20 to 24 to die in pregnancy and childbirth.
“Child brides are also more likely to experience discrimination and violence and too often, they have little or no ability to leave abusive partners and secure the social and legal support they need to improve their situation,” Unicef said.
Unicef said child marriage, which frequently inhibits a child’s basic right of health, education and security is condemned in international conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Malaysia signed and ratified in 1995.
“Whether it happened to a girl or boy, child marriage is a practice that robs children of their childhood, their rights and dignity.
“Parents may consent to child marriages out of economic necessity. Marriage may also be seen as a way to provide male guardianship for their daughters, protect them from sexual assault or avoid pregnancy outside marriage,” it said.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises that the minimum age for marriage with and without parental consent be set to 18 years, both for boys and girls. (Bernama)