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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 12 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Child Marriage: Too Early... Or Not?


By Hasimi Muhamad

12 December 2013 

 For Illustration Only"JANGAN tunggu lama-lama, nanti lama-lama, dia diambil orang. (Don't wait too long, or else he/she will be taken). This old saying from a song is totally unsuitable for early marriages among teenagers nowadays ... Pure nonsense!," says National Council of Women's Organisations Malaysia (NCWO) deputy president, Dato' Faridah Khalid to Malaysian Digest yesterday.

She was shocked and sad with some of the teenagers who marry young and think that they are not qualified to assume the responsibilities of married couples.

"They are like little children who still need care. They're not ready for any eventuality. They do not know the real responsibilities as husband and wife.

"We are not giving them the chance to grow up as a child, as a youth," she lamented, adding that she thought of them as her children.

She said the parents' attitude are as if they are releasing themselves from their responsibilities when they marry off their children and say that marriage will save their children from illicit activities.

"Parents who allow their “small” child to marry at an early age are irresponsible.

"The excuse that it is to avoid sinful acts is not fair to the children. This does not protect the children's rights. What will happen to the child's future in case of a divorce? " she asked.

In fact, she said the Religious Department of each state should look at this seriously even though the religion stated that couple should marry.

"The department should not easily approve marriage applications by under aged teens. They must be strict and provide counselling to the parents as well as the couple!

Recently, a local newspaper reported that a young couple aged 16 and 15 were married with their parents' blessings

Not forgetting the sad story of a 12-year-old girl who was divorced by her 19-year-old husband after being married less than a year.

As the saying goes, a match made in heaven! But is it relevant to marry young?

The National Assembly's statistics showed, 1.22 million Muslim marriages were registered between the years 2008 to 2012.

Quoting Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom as saying the top five states are Kedah (115,288), followed by Kelantan (108,675), Selangor (108,104), Johor (106,503) and Perak (80,880).

According to him, 210,326 divorces were registered during the same period with Selangor having the highest number (28,570), followed by Johor (17,075), Kedah (16,315), Kelantan (15,489) and Pahang (12,552).

Not About Reaching Puberty But Mentality Also Counts

The International Islamic University Malaysia's (UIAM) lecturer, Prof. Datuk Dr. Sidek Baba emphasised the aspect of mental maturity as a foundation in building a home and ensure the integrity and compatibility of young married couples.

"Although young pubescent couples are allowed to marry, but has their minds and souls reach that level of 'puberty'? Are they ready.?

"Marriage is a bond between two souls. If they are not compatible in a relationship, then their 'pubescent' minds will be the rock in their marriage to find solutions to their problems," he said.

He added that the challenges as a married couple is not the same as in the 50's or 60's considering that education is very important nowadays.

"I think early marriages are risky unless the couple is knowledgeable in household affairs.

"The challenge to educate children who lack knowledge is very difficult," he said.

Laws Need To Be Tightened

Free speaker, Ustaz Md. Daud Che Ngah thinks the civil and Islamic laws must be reviewed to tighten the rules regarding underage marriages because they (the children) do not know what real life is.

Free speaker, Ustaz Md. Daud Che Ngahf said this is important to restrict any opportunists who try to take advantage of the provisions of the existing law including Syariah law that accept underage marriage, as long as the right conditions are met.

"For example, according to the provisions of the existing Syariah law, when a father (parents) and Syariah Court allows the child to be married, then the marriage is legal even though the child is still young or underage," he said.

The question is, are these young future husbands fully prepared to support his wife? Marriage is not only to avoid sinful acts, but one must be able to provide physical and spiritual necessities.

"Maybe the teenager is capable physically, but spiritually?" he asked when contacted by mD.

He added that three basic things must be provided; a home, clothing and food as well as sexual needs.

However, the Mufti of Perak Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria disagrees that the issue of early marriages be used as an excuse to tighten the existing laws.

But for him, parents need to be educated to be more open-minded and aware of their children's readiness to get married.

"It's no problem since Syaraq (Islamic laws) allows it. Why must the law, which has already legalised marriages, be tightened when it is the parents that need to be educated? " he told mD when contacted yesterday.

According to Malaysian law, Muslims are not allowed to marry when one or both parties has not reached the age limit, which is 18-years for boys and 16 for girls.

However, there is an exception in the law for those who are still under aged wanting to get married; they have to get a special permission from the Syariah Court.