Child marriage is still been practicing in Malaysia. Based on the government statistics of premarital HIV screening for Muslim for preparation to be married, there are around 479 children under the age 15 in 2009. However, this is not the exact statistic because registration of marriage are approved and responsible under the authority of the state religious department for muslim and the National Registration Department for non-muslim.
But yet, this data is the next best thing we have because we still do not have a specific studies on child marriage yet in our country. Recently, there are two cases that has brought to the mass media attention and shaking the whole nation regarding the two Kelantanese girl age 10 who are married toa 40 year old men and an 11 year old girl who are married toa 41 year old.
Some activist voice out their opinion regarding this heinous act but according to our two sets of law, Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 and the Islamic Family Laws, muslim can get married at the minimum age of 16 years old while boys at the age of 18 year old but younger children can be married at a younger age provided the concent by the Syariah Judge. Non-muslim on the other hand could legally be married at the age of 18 year old or younger girls at the age of 16 could be married with the authorization of the Menteri Besar or Chief Minister at their respective state.
Child marriages are often arranged marriages that has the manifest function like other marriage but the latent function is to built alliances between two families in exchange not Just their children but mostly for wealth and favors. Love and personal compatibilities is not the foundation of these marriages as children is still young to understand it. For example, in India, child marriage is illegal but still in has been practice in remote rural areas where the tradition is strong and enforcement is hard to maintain.
Factors that contribute to child marriage are like the raise of economic and social status resulting to acute urban poverty in our society making the parent think that it is necessary to reduce the economic burden of a family by marrying them off early in a patriarchal society. Religious and gender bias also promotes early marriage among girls. Lack of education and the conventional thinking of eliminating sexual activities out of he wedlock are other reasons parent marrying off their children in order to avoid other problem such as teenage pregnancy and baby dumping.
Another factors children especially girls married at a younger age is because the younger they are the question of virginity is not an issue, which raises their value on the marriage market. Child marriage is a social dysfunctions that contribute to negative impacts of denial of their childhood, denial of their education, creating health problem such as early pregnancy, premature birth and other complication which can result in aternal and infant mortality and not to mention abuse whether it is sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically.
A child should have been given the right to experiences and live their childhood and adolescence, go to school to access further education and socialize with their peers in order to grew up normally. Family is the back-boned of society and the most important socialization agent. The parents as an authority fgure should be keep in mind that the child the God’s “trust” upon them. They should understand the negative impact of the problem itself. They hould take care of all the child needs not until their puberty but until they grew up mature enough to lead their own life.
Marriage is one of the biggest yet personal decision in life and it should not be rush before their reach adulthood and mature enough to be coping with the issues of marital and maternal and giving them the opportunity to be part of our society. The Nation also plays important role. Malaysian Government need to develop and implement systems to prevent or discourage this practice. The government should make a legislation to repair the loophole we have in the system now by standardizing he minimum age of marriage to 18 year old inline with the Child Act 2001 that protect the children’s right.
The government also engaging on smart partnership with other Non Government Organization (NGOs) on campaigning and educate the public regarding the myth, misconception and the harmful effect of early marriage. The society itself need to have stronger values and belief be more caring and concern by voicing out to the public in order to change the mentality, attitudes, custom and practices of our society. We need time to educate our society of the negative impact of child marriage that effects our socialization.