Cops block man’s bid to wed 11-year-old Rohingya in Penang

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
File photo of an ethnic Rohingya refugee who was among a boatload of asylum seekers standing by the window of an immigration quarantine centre in Langsa district in Aceh province. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — Penang police halted a wedding ceremony between an 11-year-old Rohingya girl and a 21-year-old man in Taman Senangin, Butterworth on Wednesday.

The agency acted on a report by Lifebridge Learning Centre director K. Sudhagaran Stanley Singh, after he noticed the girl’s absence from the centre.

“As it was the long Chinese New Year break, we could not get (the) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

“With the clock ticking, we resorted to calling the police to intervene,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

A police team arrived at the ceremony that was reportedly attended by around 100 guests and intervened.

The girl’s father, a 46-year-old building contractor said to be in financial difficulty, reportedly agreed to authorities’ advice for him defer the wedding until the girl was older.

“We managed to stop it as the wedding was taking place illegally and it was not Shariah-sanctioned,” Sudhagaran claimed.

He alleged the girl’s family would have gone through with the wedding without the intervention.

State police also said they informed related agencies including the Welfare Department, Penang Religious Affairs Department and UNHCR.

Sudhagaran disclosed that Rohingya girls have a 90 per cent dropout rate from the centre around the time they reach puberty and said this was a major concern.

He then urged the government to let Rohingya child refugees enrol in public schools and other social services.

Penang Women, Family Development and Gender Inclusiveness Committee chairman Chong Eng also urged the UNHCR to form guidelines on child marriages involving refugees so that Malaysian laws could then be applied.

“We can only raise awareness and try keeping the children in school,” she was quoted as saying.

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