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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thursday December 16, 2010

We must do more to protect
our daughters from exploitation

AT 14, the biggest decision I had to make was
deciding which new mobile phone model I should be spending my savings on.
This is probably true for most children of that age in most parts of this country.

Imagine my shock when I read of a mass wedding
conducted in downtown Kuala Lumpur last Saturday
and the stars of the ceremony –
a 14-year-old bride and her 23-year-old school teacher-husband.

Local dailies gushed about the blushing bride resplendent
in her bridal finery and I found myself wondering
what choices the bride was given before deciding on the marriage.

Reaction to their union was swift,
with the local dailies following up with recounts of similar
controversial marriages of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old man in Kelantan
and a 10-year-old girl’s marriage to a 40-year-old man,
also in Kelantan earlier this year.

We are further informed that there are some 16,000 married
Malaysian girls aged below 15 on current official records.

The marriage also made international news
and has since sparked a vociferous debate,
online more than anywhere else,
against the practice of child marriages in Malaysia.

In most developing countries,
between 20% and 70% of young women marry
(or start living with a partner) before age 18.

More often than not, child brides are pulled out of school,
depriving them of an education and meaningful work.
They suffer health risks associated with
early sexual activity and childbearing,
leading to high rates of maternal and child mortality
as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

And they are more likely to be victims of domestic violence,
sexual abuse and social isolation.

Though opposition to child marriages at the grassroots level is clearly evident,
the silence from the authorities
(the Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Ministry, foremost among others)
have been all but deafening.

In a statement, its minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil reportedly said:
“As far as I know, she’s got the consent of the court.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz,
who is in charge of legal affairs,
echoed the same sentiment,
revealing that the Government had no intention
of reviewing laws allowing for underage marriages
because the practice is permitted under Islam.

I find our lawmakers’ attitude of passing the buck
onto the Syariah court as a matter outside of their jurisdiction
to be a little perplexing, if not outright disturbing.

For instance, the Moroccan government has reportedly
made the boldest reform in recent years regarding women’s legal rights.
In January 2004, it adopted an entirely new Family Law
that was both within the framework of Islamic law with a goal of promoting gender equality,
raising the minimum legal age at marriage for
Moroccan women from 15 years to 18 years
(similar to that for men).
Other Islamic countries in the region have since adopted similar laws,
all of them also within the framework of Islamic/Syariah laws.

This alone should be a convincing indicator to all parties concerned
that the protection of women is provided for within Islamic religious laws.

Without venturing too far into unfamiliar territory,
I find myself wondering to what standards the Malaysian Syariah court
measures itself as a proponent of moderate Islam
alongside their counterparts in arguably more hardline
Muslim countries in the Middle East.

If the governments of these countries can summon up
the political will to protect their daughters
through actual legal reform, why not us?

To Shahrizat’s credit, she did mention:
“It is not our culture in Malaysia to practise child marriage,
hence if possible, I hope such cases will not occur again.”

That being said, the time for merely wishing and hoping has passed.
Concrete action is needed if we are serious
in protecting our daughters from exploitation.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir encapsulates this whole issue best in saying:
“Paedophilia is paedophilia, no matter the garb.”
She is right. Enough is enough.
Let our daughters be.

LEROY LUAR,
Penang.



"If my daughter told me she wants to get married
at the age of 10 i will drown her"
^ is what i said to TeeTee..
I have cousins at the age of 10 & 14..
They are still (considered) babies lor ok (for me)..

Btw i thought the lady in Tron (Olivia Wilde)
was Katherine Zeta Jones wtf..
I was considering watching it aih..

Olivia Wilde..
Wah look like lor..
But when i googled Olivia Wilde..
......erm

The ever so gorgeous Catherine Zeta Jones..
ZORRO!!Antonio Banderas!!
They look so good together..
Puss In Boots.. Hahahaha..
-cr google
Ok i know i am so random..
From underage marriage i jumped to CZJ..
But she's so gorgeous & she's 41 wtf but she looks so young..
And yes i adore older women who cary themselves well..
And women who have talent..

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