Saturday, March 13, 2010

Legalised paedophilia: Malaysian child marriages

WHEN I was ten, I struggled with hard maths. To a Kelantanese girl of similar age today, arithmetic will be the least of her problems.

Females in Kelantan are already hard-pressed by the lack of educational and job opportunities. Now there is another problem to add to the list. Girls are prevented from having a proper childhood and will instead, be married-off.

Last week, we read about the marriage of two 10 year-old girls to 40 year-old men. This is commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa or Afghanistan. Sadly, these occurred in Kelantan, which incidentally has the nation's highest rate of incest and HIV/AIDS cases.

It is shocking, but not surprising that such marriages happened in modern Malaysia. Child marriages, today: Honour killings, next? The political will is too weak, to plug the various loopholes in syariah law which allows recalcitrant men to slip through.

Our political leaders are not robust when facing-up to the ulama, for fear of being termed un-Islamic. More importantly, they fear upsetting their own popularity ratings. On the contrary, the leaders would be highly respected if they confronted the unpopular issues, head-on, and do what is right to protect the weakest in our society. Why only pander to the loudest sycophant?

Lust misconstrued as a 'right'

Syariah laws were formulated without consulting women or taking their views into consideration. Laws pertaining to divorce, marriage, conversion, child custody have been passed without proper debate and discussion. When it suits some, the life of the prophet is called into comparison, for justification. Malaysia's syariah laws are inadequate and make a mockery of justice. Why are the rights of women sidelined?

In polygamy, lust is misconstrued as a 'right'. The Muslim man demands his right to marry four wives. He conveniently ignores the stipulation of war widows or older single mothers or equal treatment of his wives. He is unashamed to marry very young women. He boasts that he can father several children. He cares very little that he is a hypocrite or that his wife and family lack stable family relationships.

There is no denying it. The men who married children in Kelantan are paedophiles and should be arrested and jailed. The same punishment applies to the girls' fathers. These child-marriages might act as a beacon for the world's paedophiles to seek out their prey in Malaysia. Gary Glitter, the rock singer, was jailed for child sex charges in Vietnam and Cambodia.

marriage-2What drives a man to offer his 10 year-old daughter for marriage? What father gives his daughter away to someone who befriends him at the mosque? What man solemnizes his daughter's marriage, in her absence, in the backseat of a car? He forgets that his daughter is open to abuse or can be dumped, when the husband seeks his claim to polygamy.

At ten, I could barely tie my shoelaces. My father would hold my hand to cross a busy road. My sister and I would dress-up in our mother's clothes and teeter in her stilettos, our faces smeared with lip-stick, pretending we were grown-ups. I could barely help my mother cook, as the cooker-hob was at chin-level. Puberty and the talk of the birds-and-the-bees were still a long way away. So, just imagine the horror of the two Kelantanese 10-year-olds when accosted by their middle-aged husbands on the conjugal bed. It is a crippling thought.

Why do Malaysian men find women a problem? The Cuepacs secretary-general, Ahmad Shah Mohd Zin decried that too many women were in decision making positions in the civil-service. Maybe he should encourage men to improve their performance and attitude to work. Job efficiency, or gender? Ahmad Shah's priorities are misplaced. He seems insecure and threatened by women.

The mixed messages continue. The head of the National Population and Family Development Board said that women delayed marriage and fertility rates dropped from 3.4 (1995) to 2.2 (2007). The suggestion was for women to get married earlier and have more babies. Must the struggles of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers to improve their lives and their families lives, through education and empowerment, be forgotten so quickly? Must we also belittle the role of women in modern Malaysia?

It's sexual abuse

Child marriage is sexual abuse and a violation of human rights. The exploited girl suffers tremendous emotional and physical trauma. She is denied an education. Her right to personal freedom and growth are curtailed. She is excluded from interacting with her friends, or participating in school/community activities. She may be prevented from refusing sex, and so risks having sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS. When pregnant, her health is at further risk from premature pregnancy or pregnancy related mortality.

Around the world, women enjoy advancements in education, living standards and economic and financial freedom. But women in Malaysia, specifically Muslim women, are apparently stuck in the middle ages, with their lives dictated not by one set of laws but two.

This dual system of laws must be revamped. It is unacceptable that an underage girl can marry with the permission of religious officials. What sort of deterrent is a fine and six months jail, when her life and future are ruined by the actions of two men - her irresponsible father and a lust fueled 'husband'?

Children need education, not marriage for a good start in life. The government must develop and implement systems to discourage child marriages. Poverty and change in attitudes to out-dated customs and old-fashioned practices, must be addressed. Syariah and civil laws, with emphasis on human rights, must be reviewed. Without commitment, there is no progress.

Hypocrisy features in our lives. We call ourselves modern, but we practise medieval methods. We ban Beyonce or sex-gadgets, but we say it is okay to marry little girls. We whip women for drinking beer, but we permit ourselves shares in breweries.

Women accused of illicit sex are whipped, whilst men can get around this by marrying more than one wife (and then divorcing them). If the Petronas Twin Towers represent progress, they are also a crude symbol of the double life endured by Malaysians.

courtesy of Malaysian Mirror


pretty mummy said...

If this is true Kamal, it is your obligation to report them to the police. This is paedophile whether sanctioned by the father or not. If we do not protect our children, who will?

katztales said...

Excellent piece!

*P* said...

very well written...thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kris said...

I read this with both shock and horror. Did this really happen, the marriage of ten year olds to adults here in Malaysia....?

Your piece though couldn't be more accurate and your closing, that we are ruled by hypocrisy here sums up our sad state of affairs to the letter...