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Children as young as 12 in Malaysia get married legally

More than 150,000 children in Muslim and indigenous community in Malaysia were married despite of an early age,  based on the country's 2010 Housing and Population Census, the latest data available.

Data shows that child marriages in Malaysia accelerated from 65,029 in the year 2000 to 105, 000 in 2010. In the latest census, it can be seen that teenagers aged between 15 to 19 or even younger are getting married legally.

Mary who came from Sarawak, a state from Malaysia, is one of the hundreds of children who get married at 12 and became a mother at 13.

Sarawak has the highest number of child marriages in the country  with 1,609 non-Muslim female cases from 2005 to 2015 based on the National Population and Family Development Board. In addition, there were also 1,284 cases of Muslim child marriages reported from 2011 to 2016 by the Department of Sharia Judiciary.

The high rate of child marriages in Sarawak reflects on its non-compliance in 2018 federal directive to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for Muslims and non-Muslims. Activists also believed that the problem seems to be inevitable in the place because of the traditional and indigenous communities in its remote areas who believe that they can marry according to their own "adat," the Malay term for customary law, and not civil law.

Muslims are governed by sharia law, which sets a minimum age of 18 for boys and 16 for girls or even younger as long as there is an approval from the sharia court. Since Federal Constitution has no jurisdiction over matters under sharia laws, child marriages are being difficult to eliminate even if it is prohibited by civil law.

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