A shocking photograph of a 41-year-old Malaysian man holding hands with his Thai child-bride has sparked international outrage.
The picture shows Che Abdul Karim with his “new wife”, who is just 11-years-old. Many are complaining bitterly about the marriage.
News of their nuptials, which were widely circulated online, has prompted calls for the minimum age for marriages to be changed to 18.
The bridegroom already has two wives and six children aged between five and 18, according to local media reports.
His new bride’s Thai parents are said to have agreed to the marriage on the proviso that she lived with them until she was 16.
The groom is a scrap rubber dealer who is said to be quite wealthy.
On Sunday he defended his actions, claiming that he had not eloped and had married her with permission of her family.
He told the Borneo Post: “I was disappointed with various criticisms and allegations made against me in the social media after I took her as my third wife.”
He also said he will only formalize the marriage in Malaysia when the girl turns 16 and that she will stay with her parents until then.
Photos on social media showed the groom holding the girl’s hand after the marriage ceremony.
Local media said Che Abdul Karim is an imam in a rural village in northeast Kelantan state.
The girl was also quoted as saying by local media that she doesn’t understand the fuss over her marriage as she is in love with Che Abdul Karim.
Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah has told local media that officials are investigating if the parents approved the marriage due to poverty.
She said an initial investigation showed the girl, who doesn’t attend school, was wooed twice and that her mother had told the man the girl was too young and asked for the marriage to be consummated only when she turns 16.
She also said the girl’s elder brother was grappling with juvenile problems, adding to the complexity of the issue.
“Paedophilia, child exploitation, child pornography… we must be firm on this as children are our responsibility,” she was quoted as saying.
Activists have urged the government to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18.
The U.N. children agency called the latest child marriage “shocking and unacceptable”.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia expressed concern that allowing child marriage in the name of religion might “provide cover for paedophiles and child s*xual predators.”
The National Human Rights Society said government data showed there were as many as 15,000 Malaysian child brides in 2010 and called for laws to criminalize child marriage to protect minors.
Source: The Sun UK