Thai Islamic Council bans marriage of children under 17

Move puts an end to widespread practice of marrying off poor girls in country's southern provinces

BANGKOK • Thailand's Islamic Council has for the first time issued a ban on child marriage nationwide, following public anger sparked by the marriage of an 11-year-old child to a man four times her age earlier this year.

The new regulation from the Central Islamic Council of Thailand (Cicot) bans children under the age of 17 from marriage.

The regulation was announced to all mosques yesterday, Mr Wisut Binlateh, director of the coordination centre for the Sheikhul Islam Office and a senior member of the Islamic Council, told the online BenarNews.

Mr Wisut also said that Thailand's chief Islamic leader, Mr Aziz Phitakkumpon, who chairs Cicot, had given his approval for the new regulation late last month.

Legal specialist Panadda Isho, at the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), also told BenarNews that SBPAC would translate the new regulation into Bahasa Melayu and publicise the information through seminars.

The new regulation ensures that local mosques cannot grant permission for marriages involving anyone aged under 17 unless an Islamic court gives permission or the parents sign a document approving the marriage at the provincial Islamic committee office or at a local police station, Mr Panadda told BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with Radio Free Asia.

The historic move ends a widespread practice in the southern Muslim-majority provinces, where girls were married off by poor parents with the permission of the local mosque once the girl had started menstruating.

A special sub-committee was also set up to consider marriages involving children younger than 17, and give the green light if the marriage benefits the spouses.

One of the three committee members must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic laws and she must be in charge of questioning and interviewing the girl.

The historic move ends a widespread practice in the southern Muslim-majority provinces, where girls are married off by poor parents with the permission of the local mosque once the girl has started menstruating.

In the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun, Islamic law is used in place of the civil code for family matters and inheritance.

The law does not specify the minimum age for marriage, unlike the civil code applied elsewhere in Thailand, which has set the minimum age at 17.

The loophole allowed many Malaysian men to take much younger girls as wives from Thailand.

THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Thai Islamic Council bans marriage of children under 17'. Print Edition | Subscribe