Two Australian mates of mine with interests in Malaysia - one ex-copper and one ex-SASR - were discussing this earlier today online. I think their comments are spot on.
From Malaysia's Sun Daily.
'Govt powerless to nullify child marriage as it is valid under Islamic laws'
Last updated on 10 July 2018 - 11:04pm
PETALING JAYA: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the marriage between a 41-year-old man and his 11-year-old child bride remains valid under Islam despite the fine imposed on the man.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, explained that under Kelantanese Islamic laws, children under 16 are allowed to get married with the permission of a Syariah Court judge and that Putrajaya is powerless to nullify it.
"Legally it is not valid but under the Islamic laws it is," she told reporters after a function at the National Welfare Foundation in Putrajaya.
She added that the government is 'working' with the National Fatwa Council to push the age limit for marriage to 18.
Women's Aid Organisation communication officer Tan Heang-Lee told theSun that the fine imposed by the Gua Musang Shariah Court on the 41-year-old rubber tapper was a mere slap on the wrist.
"To end child marriage, it is important that we raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, without exception.
"Only then can we send a clear message to everyone that Malaysia does not tolerate child marriage and child abuse in the society," Tan said when contacted.
Agreeing with the NGO's stand, Sisters in Islam communication manager Majidah Hashim claimed that the fine does little to punish the man considering the severity of his offence, and to serve as a deterrent against child marriages in the future.
"We are disappointed that maximum fines for the charges were not doled out and that the punishment does not appreciate the severity of implications that child marriage has on the 11-year-old girl.
"The subjectivity of the fines as well as the discretion enjoyed by the judge in deciding the punishment only goes to demonstrate that no exceptions can be allowed in laws that intend to end child marriages once and for all in Malaysia," Majidah said.
Majidah added that allowing judges the liberty to decide based on circumstances can clearly be abused resulting in injustice to vulnerable child brides.