In December 2010, a report about a mass wedding in the Federal Territory mosque caught my eye. A 14-year-old teenager, Siti Maryam Mahmod, married 23-year-old teacher, Abdul Manan Othman, allegedly a friend of her family. There were 250 couples at the event.
The erstwhile Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Jamil Khir Baharom, was the event’s guest-of-honour. He was reported to have said the marriage was legal as it had the Syariah Court’s consent.
If he had any sense of responsibility and if he was a father, he would have questioned it and put a stop to it.
That 2010 story of Malaysia’s child marriage created headlines around the world and many wondered about our claim of an advanced and modern nation. We have ‘first-world’ pretensions but ‘dark-ages’ inspired aspirations.
Since then, more child marriages have taken place, in Malaysia.
Successive Ministers for Women, Family and Community Development, would wring their hands, and mutter something along the lines of “We are looking into it,” and then nothing.
How many times must we express outrage?
A marriage is supposed to be a girls’ happiest, special and most important day. No girl likes to be ‘processed’ like an item on the conveyor belt of a supermarket checkout.
What will it take for the government to ban child marriages?
Why are we taking Malaysia back into the middle ages?
Lust is mistaken for love. I wrote then, as I continue to write that child marriages are nothing more than state sanctioned paedophilia. No ifs. No buts.
The idea of a young girl being married off at a tender age is outrageous. She may have a well-developed body but is her mind just as mature? Perhaps, but most likely it is not.
Siti Maryam’s husband was in his twenties, so do we sit at home thinking “Oh, it’s not so bad”. Would readers be just as accepting if her husband was in his late seventies?
In 2010, Shahrizat said that her government “does not condone child marriages and will look into the wedding”?
Time and again, she promised us that she would look into the matter.
Readers may recall, that earlier, in March (2010), she had to deal with the controversy over two child marriages in Kelantan.
Coincidentally, the then Minister in charge of Islamic affairs was Jamil Khir Baharom. He questioned the motive of one of the marriages which was reportedly between an 11-year-old girl and a man above 40. Jamil remarked that the marriage was probably “more to satisfy lust”.
He had also questioned the way the marriage of the other underage girl had been conducted, allegedly, in a moving car.
So, why did he officiate and be the guest of honour at the mass wedding ceremony, a few months later, in December?
Why did he abrogate his responsibilities so quickly? Or does he not consider the December child marriage as merely “satisfying lust”? Does he think there are many degrees of lust, and that some are more acceptable than others?
So, what happened to those investigations? Were they swept under the carpet too?
Child marriages are wrong. Would you be happy if your daughter were to become a child bride?
How many more child marriages have we to read about in the papers?
Will the new Pakatan Harapan government ban child marriages?
What do you think we should do about child marriages?