Sabah to have Absolute Minimum Age of Marriage at 18 (Civil, Native & Muslim Marriages)

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The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines "child" as any human being under 18 years of age. The CRC urges countries to set the minimum age for marriage for men or women (with or without parental consent) at 18 years.

"Child marriage is not only rampant in this country but it is also a global problem that must be holistically and effectively addressed"


We implore the Sabah Government to implement an absolute minimum age of marriage to 18 years of age to all Civil, Native and Muslim marriages. The current law in our state governing the minimum age of marriage is not uniformed. There are different sets of laws for Sabahans depending on their religion. The non-muslims can choose to marry under the civil law or their native customary laws (if they are native), whereas the muslims marry in accordance to Islamic laws.


Let's have a uniformed absolute minimum age of marriage to 18 years of age in accordance with the global and national effort in tackling child marriages. Children are future for adults. Let us not deprived them of their future opportunities. Make secondary education compulsory, get them educated! 


Quoting the Star, Saturday, 29th September 2018:

  • Sabah Women's Action Resource Group (SAWO) secretary Yasmin Ooi said based on scientific, economic and psychological evidence, child brides were not equipped to handle the responsibilities of being wives and mothers in society.
  • "Some girls may develop secondary sexual characteristics like breasts, and start their menstruation at a young age, but their bodies are still developing. If they were to become pregnant, they would face complications during pregnancy and delivery, which can be potentially fatal for them and their unborn children.
  • "If they survive that, they will most likely be deprived of education. As such, they would be disadvantaged when it comes to economic opportunities, therefore trapping another generation in poverty," she said.
  • Ooi said the law deems 18 to be the age of maturity, whereby the individual is considered an adult.
  • "At that age, an individual can own or discharge a property, as well as be held responsible by the court for committing a crime.
  • "That is why we feel that to start a family or get married, one should be an adult first," she added.
  • Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All (Serata) founder Sabrina Aripen said it was appalling that certain parties were still defending a lower age bracket for marriage by insisting that puberty is the sign of maturity.
  • She described such arrangement as "legalised paedophilia" and "prostitution of young girls".
  • "Yes, 18 is the minimum. Although I don't think anyone is even mature enough at that age, it is the age where it is accepted that you can do grown-up things without needing your parents' consent, such as opening a bank account," Sabrina explained.
  • Good Shepherd Services (GSS) executive director Chin Poh Choo said 18 years should be the minimum marriage age as this would enable the individuals to at least complete their secondary education before getting married.
  • She also dismissed the idea of child marriages as being a way out of poverty, especially for families living in rural areas.
  • "There should be no distinction between children in urban areas and rural areas. A child is still a child, regardless of where they come from.
  • "In fact, because children in rural areas are more vulnerable, all the more reason that protection should be extended to them," said Chin.
  • For Muslims, the minimum age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but exceptions can be made for girls or boys to marry at a younger age as long as they obtain the Islamic courts' consent.

The establishment of a clear minimum age for marriage at 18 in line with international standards that applies to all existing legal frameworks is therefore a key first step to ending child marriage in Sabah and in Malaysia as a whole.


The practice of child marriage limits children’s educational development, cutting short their scholastic trajectory and ultimately disempowering them from engaging meaningfully with their community and the world at large. It also derails their personal development; facing the challenges of marriage and raising a family while still a child hampers growth, development and basic well being.


Child brides, especially, face harrowing medical risks, including sexually transmitted diseases, low infant mortality rates and complications during pregnancy and childbirth that can result in death. From an economic perspective, child marriage often leaves children, especially girls, unable to learn new skills or earn an income. It also puts them at greater risk of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and persistent low household income.

Child marriages can only lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation. 

This is a pressing time to implement better protection for the children of Sabah.



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