KUALA LUMPUR - The marriage of a 12-year-old girl has invited a storm of fury in Malaysia, amid calls for banning child marriages in the Muslim-majority Asian country.
"I don't understand why this is allowed in a country like Malaysia, Ratna Osman, executive director of activist group Sisters in Islam, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
We are talking about a developed country.
Nur Fariza Saad, 12, tied the knot with Fahmi Alias, 19, last week in the northern state of Kedah.
"The concern is that this is a child being married off, Osman said.
No parents should be doing this."
Child marriages are common in Malaysia.
No marriage age is set for Muslims in Malaysia.
Under Malaysian law, any Muslim can marry at any age providing there is parental consent and permission of Shari`ah court.
Non-Muslims in Malaysia marry at the age of 18.
This is not the first time child marriages sparked uproar in Malaysia.
Two years ago, the marriage of a 14-year-old Muslim girl to a 23-year-old schoolteacher triggered similar calls for reform.
Another outcry occurred in October when two men, aged 19 and 22, were released on probation after courts convicted them of statutory rape.
But activists slammed the judges for freeing the men, saying the question of victims' consent should not have arisen as the victims were below 16.
Earlier this week, a high court overturned the ruling in one of the cases, jailing the 22-year-old man for five and a half years.
But the father of the Muslim bride rejected criticism of her marriage.
"It is better for them to get married rather than doing something improper, her father, Saad Mustafa, said.
The groom also defended the marriage.
"It is better for us to get married than do things forbidden by our religion, he said.
And Nur Fazira has agreed to shoulder the responsibility of a wife at this age."
Marriage in Islam is of utmost importance as it is upon the lawful union of a man and a woman that society grows strong and that moral is preserved.
In Islam it is not permissible for the guardian to compel the one under his guardianship to marry someone she does not desire to marry.
Rather, it is necessary to seek her consent and permission.
Malay Muslims make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.Malaysia offers the image of a model Muslim country, heading towards the status of developed nation with huge buildings, beautiful cities and a fast track economy.