While it’s obvious that we live in a world of different opinions, it is universally-acknowledged that the well-being and innocence of a child is something that needs protection. You don’t have to a liberal, a conservative or a fence-sitter to know that it’s wrong to be wearing those sweatshop-made, branded sneakers. Unless you’re an ignorant streetwear fucboi, you should already have an in-built guilt-conscience telling you that this act of consumerism perpetuates pain and the insanity of paying big bucks for an item someone was paid 1 US dollar per hour to make.
When children are coerced, forced or even groomed into uncompromising situations, be it as child-soldiers, child-labourers or as brides in child-marriages, there really isn’t much they can do, let alone comprehend. There is really nothing more evil than adults manipulating the youth to do their bidding, on a personal or institutional level.
I’m not perplexed by the occurrence of child marriages in Malaysia. After all, NGO Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) reported that in Sarawak alone, at least 10,240 Muslim-men and 7,719 non-Muslim men have applied to marry their child brides in the last decade or so.
If you think about it, the age of consent for marriage at 18 was something that came about in the last 100 years or so. Even my grandparents got married before they were 18. But we’re not talking about a marriage of convenience to avoid persecution during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.
This is 2018, Malaysia and most parts of the world have experienced peace (no major wars) for decades. And even if cases of child marriages eventually get pushed to the Syariah Court to decide, to appease the Islamists amongst us, the echoes of protest amongst citizens and government officials is a clear sign of the nation’s collective disapproval. Like I said, it’s 2018–even the government has CHANGED. So maybe it’s time to change this law where the Syariah Court has the last say on the validity of a marriage, even when the child in the marriage is below 16.
The main excuse for the continued practice of child marriage in this day and age, is still poverty. Like in the widely debated case of Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid from Gua Musang, his 11-year old bride is the daughter of an ‘impoverished’ worker at his restaurant. (If you want to know why I put inverted commas over the word ‘impoverished’ just look no further then the current headlines trending today’s news and of the loot one particular MO1 had been accused of siphoning. Or maybe just recall how much federal budget was allocated to stuff we didn’t need by the previous administration and how that could have gone to help rural Malaysia… Okay, she might be Thai, but you get the idea, no one is born poor because they deserved it, poverty is the result of unsound economic policies.)
Che Abdul Karim had promised to take care of his bride and not to have any sexual conduct or legally consummate their marriage until she was 16. Herein lies the issue and solution to child marriage…
First, let’s talk about the issue: If we can all agree that the act of an adult getting involved romantically (albeit non-physically) with a child is down-right creepy based on the adult’s capability to easily manipulate a young mind, then we’re on the same page. Welcome to New Malaysia (Old Malaysia/BN never bothered about child marriages in Malaysia in the past, mind you).
Now, the only exception for this act being immoral then is the vague hint of charity bestowed by the 41-year old Che Abdul Karim–that’s his only defence–that he wanted to take care of her, an impoverished child, as his wife. I’ve seen many come to his defence, mostly citing child marriage being permissive in their religion, but their statements are always backed by what they think Che Abdul Karim’s intentions are–which is obviously to provide for the girl as a good husband would, or so they would think. Some have even gone on to compare the child’s freedom of choice to wed an adult to that of an LGBT child choosing their gender–to which I have to say: c’mon that’s just a cheap shot at another minority group hated by the religious right.
So my solution to the issue of child marriage in Malaysia (ie: how to make it stop so we’re not looked upon as a barbaric nation), is pretty simple, and it comes in the form of a question to people who support child marriage and Che Abdul Karim himself. Scroll down…
WHY DON’T YOU JUST ADOPT THE CHILD AS YOUR OWN DAUGHTER?
Right? What’s so hard? She’s a child in need of financial support not a husband. And so what if she already has parents, you could always adopt her as your Goddaughter. Marriage and being tied to the same person (one who already has two existing wives!) would seem like the last option to me if you want to be a charitable person. That’s like draining the river instead of building a bridge.
My question/solution is simple, but no one has asked/proposed it so far. I guess, because the answer one would get, like the answers I have gotten so far from people I’ve asked verbally, is not a nice one. It’s an answer that we all know and fear (especially if we have children of our own).
Does Che Abdul Karim’s piety stretch further than his earthly desires? Only God knows, and that is exactly why we can’t condone his action.
Now let’s see you apologists and extremists wriggle yourself out of this one with religious dogma. If you do manage to do so, in our comments or on social media, make sure you tag us, because I’d really like to see any attempt to take a higher road.
’til the next rant, keep your shoes clean and child labour-free.
(Social Media Feature Image source: asiasentinel.com)