Police have advised a Rohingya family in Perai to adhere to state religious department procedures before marrying off their 11-year-old daughter, Bernama reported today.
The family had earlier planned to marry the girl to a 21-year-old man on Jan 6, but the wedding was stopped with the intervention of social activist Stanley Sudhagaran and the police.
According to Seberang Perai Tengah police chief Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abdul Hamid, the family agreed to postpone the wedding on the advice of police and district religious authorities.
"We also told them that if they wanted to go ahead with the wedding, they would have to follow the process to apply for the marriage from the religious department. They said they understood and will follow the order.
"Following the report, police managed to trace the family in Taman Perai and met them to get clarification about the incident," he was quoted as saying.
Stanley lodged a report with the police about the wedding on Wednesday night, with a police officer then accompanying him to talk to the family.
After a three-hour discussion, during which he warned the family that marrying off their daughter would constitute a violation of local religious laws, they relented and called off the wedding.
According to Stanley (photo), the family also agreed to send the girl to study at the Lifebridge Learning Centre, a Rohingya educational facility which he co-founded.
He added that the girl's father, 46, who works as a labourer, admitted he wanted to marry off his daughter as the intended groom had promised to take care of her.
Azhan also said the State Welfare Department had been informed about the matter and will monitor the situation.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also been notified as the family is of refugee status.
In August last year, Penang instructed its state legal adviser to look into laws to raise the age of consent for child marriages.
However, many are disappointed with the federal government for its delay in tackling the issue.