Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018
WE refer to the article by Sandhya Menon headlined “Yeoh: Keeping them in school till 17 can put a lid on child marriages” (Nation, The Star, Dec 8; online at tinyurl.com/star-marriage).
We object to the repeated egregious attempts of media outlets to imply that underage marriage is somehow a problem pertaining solely to Muslims and Islam by the use of a photo of a Muslim girl about to pray while playing with toys (published with the online version of the article). This is not the first time this has happened.
In the current global atmosphere in which Islam and Muslims seem to be “fair game” for the most malicious and racist of attitudes, one has to question local Malaysian media’s intentions.
As highlighted in Parliament recently, there are more child marriages occurring in the non-Muslim population in Malaysia, even taking into account the proportion of the Muslim majority in this country.
The 2017 census showed that a total of 1,845 children were married to an adult partner, and 968 of the cases, or 52.5%, were from the non-Muslim community as opposed to 877 cases, or 47.5%, from the Muslim community.
Child marriages are strongly correlated with poverty and level of education. It happens in any society where there is an imbalance of wealth distribution, and children, as the weakest fragment within society, are normally the victims.
Wafiq (International Women’s Alliance For Family and Quality Education) supports measures to stop forced or early marriages that are potentially harmful to either very young brides or grooms (young adolescents), physically or socially.
We condemn cases where girls are forced to marry much older men, where they are treated as objects or commodities as families try to escape poverty.
ASSOC PROF DR RAFIDAH HANIM MOKHTAR
International Women’s Alliance For Family and Quality Education (Wafiq)