A Malaysian member of parliament, Tasek Gelugor, has sparked outrage over his comment that girls as young as nine were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.
He made the comment today as Malaysia passed a law on sexual offences against children without criminalising child marriage.
Gelugor, a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, made the comment 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.
The proposal was voted down by the majority of members.
“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.
He also said there was “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying her rapist as she would then not face a “bleak future”.
Tasek’s comments sparked outrage on social media, with some opposition politicians asking for him to be fired.
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.