Thursday, May 14, 2015

If child porn is bad, what about child marriage?


14 May 2015 10:00 AM
 
         
 by Mariam Mokhtar
OUTSPOKEN: Recently in London, a young Malaysian adult was jailed for child pornography and the Malaysian rakyat expressed their outrage, and yet, very few Malaysians would dare to speak out against child marriages in Malaysia. 
The rakyat were furious that Mara officials and one minister, were contemplating giving 23-year-old Nur Fitri Azmeer Noordin, from Malim Nawar, a Mara maths scholar at Imperial College, a second chance, and allow him to resume his studies when he is released from jail. 
Did any Malay minister or official, consider giving a second chance to the child bride, who had been denied the opportunity of a stable future? 
Do Malays in positions of authority only look after prodigies and discard other Malays? 
Who will speak up for the thousands of child brides in Malaysia who do not have a secondary education? 
It is outrageous that a girl who reaches the age of puberty is eligible for marriage. She may possess a well-developed body but her mind may not be as mature. As soon as a child is married off, she will have to drop out of school. She is denied an education and she has no social nor technical skills. She is tied to children, poverty and pain, during and after the marriage. 

If she is lucky, her husband will remain with her for life. In most cases, the husband will leave her within a few years, to start a new family with another, younger bride. Forget about syariah law helping the abandoned wife. In theory it sounds good, in practise enforcement is poor, or non-existent.
It is difficult to discuss the issue of child brides openly because the Malay man demands his “religious right” to marry a girl who has just reached the age of puberty. 
Some Malay women are too afraid of saying anything, in case their husbands leave them for daring to speak out against what he perceives his right to a child bride. 
Woe betide any non-Malay who dares to disparage Muslim child marriages, because he will receive threats and accusations that he is seen to be interfering with another race and religion. 
The Malay man is perceived to be an obstinate, buffoon who demands his rights to violate a woman. He is unwilling to listen to reason, and refuses to offer women, an equal voice.
Child marriages are not restricted to the Muslim community, where five years ago, it was also believed to be a common phenomenon among the Indians in the rubber estates of Negeri Sembilan. Twelve-year-old girls were married off, with or without their parents’ consent.
The 2000 Census shows that 6,800 girls and 4,600 boys, below 15-years of age, were married. Out of the 6,800 girls, 2,450 (36%) were Malay, 1,550 (22.8%) non-Malay Bumiputera, 1,600 (23.2%) Chinese, 600 (9%) Indian and 600 (9%) child brides were from ‘other races’.
Children who are born to a child or teenage mother suffer a higher mortality rate. The child bride’s body is not yet fully developed and her life and that of her child will be endangered, if she has to give birth. 
The child bride has poor emotional health and well being. She is more likely to suffer from post-natal depression, which lasts for a longer period, than older mothers.
The future of a young girl and her baby is poor. Her prospects of employment are reduced as she will have to take care of the needs of a growing family. If she wants to return to her studies or go to work, she must pay for child care, which is expensive.
When the story about Nur Fitri was reported, on May 1, no minister, ulama or official from the religious institutions saw fit to denounce Nur Fitri. 
Most ordinary Malaysians were disgusted when Mara council member Nazir Hussin Akhtar Hussin and the Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal, took advantage of the situation, and tried to be seen as heroes, defending Malay honour. 
These two had to make a humiliating climb-down when they were blasted by the rakyat, for showing their stupidity and lack of principles. 
Malaysia is in dire straits, because we put incompetent people in important positions, in society. The Malay men who refuse to listen to reason, who refuse to compromise and acknowledge the presence of women and the other races are prepared to defend what many of us consider warped values. 
So, where are the progressive Malay men, with voices of moderation?
Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth.
- See more at: http://www.theantdaily.com/Main/If-child-porn-is-bad-what-about-child-marriage#sthash.NwobTPod.dpuf

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