Penang has instructed its state legal advisor to look into laws to increase the age of consent for child marriages, said state executive councillor Chong Eng.
During her winding-up speech at the Penang legislative assembly last night, Chong asked both the opposition and backbenchers if they would support such laws to curb child brides.
Her remarks come after the urging by Syerleena Abdul Rashid (DAP-Seri Delima) for the age of marriage to be increased from 16 to 18 to deter cases of child bride like the controversial incident in Gua Musang, Kelantan, where a 41-year old man married an 11-year old girl.
"If there were laws to allow child marriages, the time has passed," said the exco for women and family development, gender inclusiveness and religion (other than Islam).
Chong also said parents are supposed to protect their children's interests instead of allowing child marriages, which is not in the interest of their daughters.
Satees Muniandy (DAP-Bagan Dalam) said state opposition leader Mohamad Yusoff Mohd Nor himself had explained that not all laws in Islam are "tight" like fasting during the month of Ramadan and praying five times a day.
"They are laws which are not so tight, we can work around them to find the best solution to this issue," Satees added.
BN agreeable 'if beneficial to people'
Norhafizah Othman (BN-Permatang Berangan) said if the laws were beneficial to the people, she would not oppose it.
"We would not reject if there are good proposals to resolve the issue".
Ong Ah Teong (DAP-Batu Lanchang) pointed to Selangor ruler agreeing to the move to increase the age of consent for marriage. "So, why can't we do it in Penang?".
Faiz Fadzil (Amanah-Permatang Pasir) said even in civil laws, child marriages need the consent of the chief minister.
"It's not just about the law, the country must move forward on this issue since it is a government which promotes integrity and is progressive, not only in terms of physical but mental as well," he said.
Faiz said society should not be dismissive of sex problems among the youths as it is better to educate them and raise their awareness of these issues.