A 41-year old self-proclaimed imam’s marriage to a poor 11 year old girl has sparked outrage throughout Malaysia, and shock throughout the world. There have been questions raised regarding whether finance was a motivating factor in having the child married. While her parents work as rubber tappers on a plantation, he lives comfortably with two other wives and six children.
If your skin isn’t already crawling you may need to talk to someone.
Children don’t know what they’re signing up for when they get married. It’s easy to convince them that what they’re doing is right, especially if they’ve had a very limited education up until then. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) list education as a major focal point for future development. This case demonstrates the further need for education in Malaysia.
The girl’s parents should know the marriage of their underaged daughter is unacceptable, no matter how much they may be paid. The girl should know how wrong what she’s being coerced into doing is. The outcry about this should be louder, and the man’s head should be on a spike already.
The girl has clearly been tricked, and has no idea what she’s getting into. At the age of 11, she claims to be in love with her husband. She doesn’t attend school. Her long-term psychological prospects are, to put it mildly, not good. According to the International Journal of Endorsing Health Science Research, girls who undergo this kind of treatment are at a high risk of later psychological distress. This will begin the moment he consummates the marriage, and will last for the remainder of her life. The impact it has on her will be echoed down the chain of her children, and a psychological scar will be etched onto the family from this abominable behaviour.
Two years ago the laws surrounding sexual predation were changed, in a landmark moment which came following investigative journalism that showed how pervasive the issue was. These journalists were able to increase awareness surrounding more overt sexual assault. When it comes to less obvious instances of longer-term grooming, further action is still needed.
There is another SDG being violently violated here. That’s gender equality. Gender equality is a thorny issue to tackle in a nation where women often feel pressured to cover themselves up more than men, thereby reducing their freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is one thing, but it’s quite another to leave one gender vulnerable to exploitation from an early age while the other is left relatively safe.
What I’m referring to here is the manner in which girls are married from the moment they hit double digits, while boys are left to mature in peace. This isn’t just an unspoken custom either. Girls can be married at the age of 16, boys at the age of 18. This is without others’ consent. With the consent of an Islamic court and the girl’s parents, she can be married whenever they feel is appropriate. There’s no policy regarding how a boy can be married below the age of 18, because it doesn’t happen.
Current laws don’t just provide cover for paedophiles, they encourage it. These laws suggest that older men marrying younger women, and lots of them, is the norm. The UN’s SDGs, which Malaysia aided in establishing, are very explicit on the topic of gender equality. That is, they say it should exist. Malaysia demonstrates the developing manner of it’s society by allowing issues such as these to continue. If the people really cared for equality, headlines as ugly as these wouldn’t be seen.
If you, or anyone else you know, needs help to work over issues regarding child sexuality, contact us.
Written by Marcomms Intern, Jack Seaberry.