Child marriage debate fuels in Malaysia

Underage unions are allowed but not common in the Muslim-majority country.

Kuala Lumpur: In an incident that may fuel debate on underage marriages in Malaysia, a 14-year-old girl and a 23-year-old youth celebrated their marriage at a mass wedding here with the blessings of Islamic authorities.

The young girl, Siti Maryan Mahmod, is however, not perturbed but very excited about her new role in life.

Underage marriages are allowed for Muslims with court permission and parental consent. The Muslim couple whose union was arranged by their parents, were married in July after permission from a Shariah court, a newspaper reported.

"It has been hard trying to juggle two roles - as a student and a wife - but I am taking it in my stride," she said. Her husband Abdul Manan Othman is a teacher at a primary
school is a family friend of the girl.

Manan, who will support his wife`s education, said education was important to him.

A minister in the prime ministers office was a guest of honour at the mass wedding and he remarked that as long as the Islamic shariah court gave its consent for the 14-year-old`s marriage "she is allowed to be married".

Deputy Health Minister of the country said that child marriages should be forbidden in the country.

Some 250 couples were married at the ceremony. Another couple who were Hindus, and had converted to Islam, said it was their second marriage.

"We were Hindus, got married and stayed that way for some time before my husband embraced Islam four years ago," Shafirah, 32, said.