JAKARTA - A Malaysian minister said the case of a rape suspect who avoided prison after marrying his 14-year-old victim will be reviewed, after it sparked fury among rights groups.
Ahmad Syukri Yusuf, 22, was charged with statutory rape of the girl late last year and faced up to 30 years in jail and whipping for the offence.
But he later married the teenager under Islamic law, and a court in Malaysia's eastern state of Sarawak ruled last week there was no need to proceed with the case.
"We have just been informed by the prosecution that a review of the case will be filed to the High Court," Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
"A rape is rape, it has to be punished accordingly. It doesn't mean by getting married, the rape case goes away," she added. "We don't want people to treat this kind of matter lightly."
Women's rights groups have criticized the court's decision, saying accused rapists should be barred from marrying their victims, and marriages with brides under the age of 18 should be banned.
Under Malaysia's civil laws, the legal minimum age for marriage is 18 but Muslim girls who are under 16 can obtain permission to marry from Islamic courts.
Ethnic Malays, who are Muslim, make up about 60 percent of the country's population of 30 million.
There are about 16,000 girls in Malaysia who were married before their 15th birthday, according to Human Rights Watch citing the latest available government statistics in 2010.
Globally, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.