Shabudin Yahaya, a Malaysian member of parliament, has sparked outrage online after stating that girls as young as nine are ”physically and spiritually” ready for marriage, as some 12 and 15 year old girls looked older than their actual ages.
He further noted that there was “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying her rapist as she would then not face a “bleak future”.
”When we discuss 12 and 15-year-olds, we don’t see their physical bodies because some children aged 12 or 15, their bodies are like 18-year-old women,” he said.
He said that although rape is a criminal offence, the rapist and the victim should be ”given a second chance to turn a new leaf in life”.
”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 added.
He said this yesterday as the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country passed a law on sexual offences against children without criminalising child marriage.
According to Reuters, Yahaya, a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, made the controversial remark in response to a proposal by an opposition member of parliament to amend the Sexual Offences Against Children bill to include a ban on child marriages.
”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,” Tasek said on Tuesday during a debate on the bill.
The proposal, however was voted down by the majority of members.
His comments sparked outrage on social media, with some opposition politicians asking for him to be sacked immediately.
A member, Dr Siti Mariah, argued that allowing the rapist to marry the victim would not guarantee a better life.
”I don’t agree with marrying off the victim to the rapist. If the rapist repents, maybe that’s fine, but what if the husband is ‘haprak’ (useless)?” she said.
Another member, Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Kulai) cited two cases of the victims marrying their attackers, and argued that the marriages ended up becoming more problematic, causing more hurt.
She said that one of the cases involved a 35-year-old man in Negri Sembilan who married a 14-year-old with a disability after allegedly raping her. The man then reportedly raped his 11-year-old sister-in-law and forced his wife to film him committing the act.
Citing his experience as a judge, Yahaya, however, said that Teo should not generalise the issue as there have been many cases where such marriages did not end in divorce.
”The girl becomes safer when she is married rather than when she is left alone. Don’t assume they (rapists) remain bad people,” he said.
Under both civil law and Islamic law, girls and boys younger than 18 can be married. 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.
Under Islamic law, children younger than 16 can get married if the Shariah courts allow it.