The announcement of a 41-year-old Malaysian man’s marriage to an 11-year-old girl has sparked outrage and renewed a debate on the issue of child marriage in the predominantly Islamic country. Wealthy rubber trader Che Abdul Karim, who already has two wives and six children, has defended his decision to marry an 11-year-old and decried “the defamation” being written about him online after his second wife, Effa Zulkifle, posted a picture of the wedding ceremony alongside the caption: “Congratulations on your wedding, my husband, 41, his other wife, 11.”
“I am sad of the assumptions and wild accusations thrown at me in social media for taking a third wife,” he told local publication Bernama. “I will consider taking legal action to stop the defamation against me through wild and inaccurate claims.”
According to the girl’s father, a 49-year-old rubber tapper, he agreed to the proposal on the basis that his daughter would only be allowed to live with Karim after she turns 16 and they file for a formal marriage certification.
“I have known him for a long time because previously we used to rent a house next door to his first wife,” he said of his new son-in-law in comments made to the Malaysia Digest. “My daughter is also friends with my son-in-law’s child with his first wife. Before this, whenever they went on holiday, they would take my daughter along.”
After screenshots of the marriage announcement swiftly went viral on Twitter, many Malaysians denounced Karim and the girl’s father and called for the end of child marriage. Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has said that the government will investigate the claims, in order to “make sure there is no discrimination or coercion in this marriage, especially towards the child.” If Karim were to be found guilty of marrying the girl without permission, he would reportedly face a maximum punishment of six months in prison.
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