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‘We don’t encourage underage marriage’

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 8/8/2017 Minderjeet Kaur

Rohani-married © Provided by MToday News Sdn Bhd Rohani-married KUALA LUMPUR: In a turnaround from a statement issued yesterday, the women, family, and community development ministry today clarified that it does not encourage underage marriage.

The clarification comes a day after the ministry revealed that a 12-year-old girl in Sabah, who had married the man convicted of raping her, was in good health and living with her parents in Kota Kinabalu.

The ministry said children need to be given an opportunity to expand their potential.

“In this matter, underage marriage can be challenging in terms of physical and mental health and also involves the education and financial aspects of the child,” the ministry said in a statement in the Dewan Rakyat today.

However, the ministry said it abides by the decision made by the victim and the family to continue with the marriage according to the present laws, stating the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 and Islamic Family Law Enactment at state level allow marriage for those below 16 years old upon approval from the Shariah Courts.

The ministry also said it will not protect any wrongdoer convicted of rape, adding that the sentence sent to a rapist shows that the judicial system protects criminals.

“Especially, in this case, it involves a child.”

On Aug 8, Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said the girl, who is now 16, is still married to Riduan Masmud, 44. Riduan, a former restaurant manager, was convicted of raping the girl in 2015 and is currently behind bars.

Rohani received brickbats from social media users and opposition MPs after she had said the ministry staff had visited the girl at her family home on April 18, and she was in good health, living with her parents while the husband is serving his time in Kepayan prison in Kota Kinabalu.

Rohani had also said the girl was given counseling to ensure she was doing well.

Riduan, who already had four children aged between two and 17 at the time of the offence, was charged with raping the girl in a vehicle near Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam between 9am and 10am on Feb 18, 2013.

He married the girl in May 2013 to escape conviction and was charged with bribing the girl’s father with RM10,000 to withdraw the police report the girl had made against him.

He was sent to jail after the Kota Kinabalu High Court dismissed the appeal on the statutory rape case.

The statement today added that the victim had told the ministry staff that she felt comfortable living with her parents while looking after her sister’s children and her siblings.

“We will continue to monitor the girl’s situation and will provide any support needed to ensure the girl can continue her life well.”

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