*Updated as of 30th September 2018
On the 3rd of September, the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, decreed that the marriageable age in the Selangor would be revised from 16 to 18.
The decree came after Malaysia had to battle its demons with child marriages in Malaysia. The country had to contend with, not 1, but 2 child marriages that made headlines around the world.
Both incidents, which happened in the state of Kelantan, saw 2 underage girls being married off to men years their senior.
One of the girls was 11 years old, and the other was 15.
However, as various organizations and governmental authorities scramble to combat the negative headlines and find ways to increase the awareness of child marriage, not everyone seems to be onboard.
On the 21st of September, Dr. Wan Azizah, Malaysia’s DPM, issued a press statement condemning the most recent child marriage case.
The Minister for Woman and Family Development reiterated the Government’s commitment to increase the legal marriage age to 18.
While her statement was warmly received by the mass majority of the public, some prominent voices disagreed with the idea of increasing the minimum age.
Of the voices, the loudest and most prominent belongs to Sabah Mufti, Datuk Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar.
A former Masters students from the University of Birmingham, UK, he was against the idea of increasing the minimum age. Instead, he believes that studies should be conducted to find ways to lower the age!
The mufti believes that people should be allowed to marry much earlier ad kids nowadays mature much faster. 14 for girls and 16 for boys. In an interview with the NST, this was what he had to say;
These are valid as long as they follow proper procedures and obtain the required permission. The reason why they are allowed to get married early is because some of these children can already be considered mature.
Sabah has consistently been one of the states in Malaysia that have one of the higher rates of underage marriage.
The mufti has also clarified following the backlash to his statement that 14-year-old can get married only in ‘special cases’
He also went on to say;
In my opinion, if the minimum marriage age is raised to 18, untoward things might happen
In an article by the BorneoPost reasons such as religion and customs, poverty and match-making practices were some of the key causes given.
But while there are many serious and logical arguments as to why Mufti Datuk Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar push to lower the minimum age is WRONG…,
Higher risks of pregnancy-related death due to undeveloped bodies;
23% increase of early onsets of diseases, such as heart attack, cancer and diabetes;
Women who marry before 19 are 50% more likely to drop out of school and not have access to education; and
Women who marry young are 3 times more likely to experience domestic violence
…Here are 4 practical reasons why 14-year-olds getting married is a very BAD IDEA.
1. 14-Year-Olds Are As Fickle As Malaysia’s Weather
Let’s face it. Back when we were 14 – which could either been last year or the last decade – we were never really sure what we want. We, Malaysians are very fickle people, and our 14-year-olds can be worst.
In fact, despite growing up, we still remain unsure of what we want based on the no. of ‘Whatever lah’ we say when deciding to get lunch.
So letting a 14-year-old to get married is an extremely bad idea. As what could be all pink and roses one day, could turn into darkness and hate a day later.
Not to mention, Muslims customs have the concept of talaq (repudiation) where when one’s spouse (who is usually the husband) declares talaq 3 times, the couple is to divorce and never be allowed to remarry each other.
FYI, any declarations of talaq – EVEN as a Joke – counts. So imagine having a spouse who is 14, fickle as Malaysian weather and holds that much power. Yesh!
2. They Already Have Huge Fictional Angst-Filled Emo Moment.
For most teens – with hormones already flying and puberty wreaking havoc with their body – having angst-filled emotions is a common occurrence.
And let us tell you, those angst-filled emotions ain’t pretty.
Remember that time you cried your heart out when Siti sat with Sandra on the bus, and you had a minor mental breakdown cause you were trying to decipher whether she was being passive-aggressive with you.
But imagine combining that fictional drama with the reality of being forced to have a child while being deprived of education?!
Hence, it’s no surprise that many child brides suffer from depression (almost 25% in fact) and immense loneliness (47%).
3. They Can’t Even Open A Bank Account Alone!
Yup, that’s right! The minimum age for a Malaysian to open a bank account alone is 18. If you are under 18, parental approval is required.
And to think we would allow someone who is not even old enough to have a bank account, to have a child?!
4. They Really Don’t Know Anything About Sex…NO MATTER How Sure They Are.
While children are exposed to sex in the media at a much earlier age, this doesn’t mean that they automatically know what sex is.
Scenes depicted in television scenes aren’t what sex is all about, not to mention the media often skip over the important bits – like sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex and sexual hygiene.
Plus, as Malaysia currently do not have a sex-education syllabus in place, teens are often left in the dark.
Like, did you know, Malaysia is the largest producer of condoms? Or that there are alternatives to latex condoms such as lambskin condoms?
So its important that Malaysians, no matter who they are, realised that;
Being Exposed To Sex Does NOT Equate To Knowing What Sex Is!
In the end, authorities should realize that marriage is a huge commitment and not one to be taken lightly. And a 14-year-old is NOT capable of making those commitments.
What do you think of the mufti’s suggestion?