Sex educator pans local movie for rosy portrayal of child marriage

The movie ‘Suami Aku Ustaz’ is adapted from a Malay-language novel of the same name and produced by Karyaseni Production Sdn Bhd. — Picture from YouTube
The movie ‘Suami Aku Ustaz’ is adapted from a Malay-language novel of the same name and produced by Karyaseni Production Sdn Bhd. — Picture from YouTube

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — A sex educator has lambasted local movie “Suami Aku Ustaz” (My Husband is a Religious Teacher)” for its glowing depiction of child marriage despite the “illegality” of the practice.

In a Facebook post yesterday, June Low wrote a scathing review of the movie after a viewing, claiming that it was condoning child marriages and representing the practitioners in a favourable manner.

When contacted, Low said it was dangerous to perpetuate the view that child marriages are acceptable.

“It’s painting child marriages in a good light and doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal,” she told Malay Mail Online yesterday afternoon, noting the damaging effects of the practice and pointing out that the bodies of young teens are not fully developed.

Relating a summary of the movie’s plot, Low said it revolves around a 17-year-old girl who is married off by her parents to her cousin, who is also a religious teacher in her school.

“The entire movie relegates the legal age for marriage to nothing more than an unnecessary formality that can be done away with in the name of religion.

“Its main objective appears to be to put child marriages in good light, showing ‘a good side’ to the buffet of statutory rape that has become a staple in the news,” she wrote in the lengthy post which has since garnered 1,158 shares at the time of publishing.

In her Facebook post, Low also noted that the movie was edited in such a way that it was unclear if the female protagonist had reached the legal age for sexual intercourse in a particular scene.

The legal age of consent in Malaysia is 16 years old, and intercourse with a person below that age is considered statutory rape regardless of whether the minor agrees to the act.

“All we have seen is that he has not had sex with her up to that point, and so he is innocent DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE MARRIED A MINOR,” she wrote.

A partial screengrab of Low’s Facebook post.
A partial screengrab of Low’s Facebook post.

When asked if she was worried that her review of the movie may be seen as criticism of Islam, Low pointed out that the problem of child marriages is prevalent among all races and countries.

“It’s not about religion; it’s about child marriages which is very worrying. It’s got nothing to do with religion,” she said.

The movie “Suami Aku Ustaz”, which is adapted from a Malay-language novel of the same name and produced by Karyaseni Production Sdn Bhd, premiered on May 14 and is among the Top 10 movies in the country in a list compiled by the Golden Screen Cinemas.

In Malaysia, Islamic laws allow Muslim boys below the legal marrying age of 18 and Muslim girls below the age of 16 to marry, but they require consent from the Shariah Court that is granted on a case-by-case basis.

The legal marrying age under civil laws in Malaysia for both genders is 18, but exemptions permit girls aged between 16 and 18 to marry with the consent of the state’s chief minister or mentri besar.

According to the population census in 2000, there were 11,400 children below 15 years of age who were married, of which 6,800 were girls and 4,600 boys.

Out of the 6,800 girls, 2,450 were Malays, 1,550 Bumiputeras, 1,600 Chinese, 600 Indians, and 600 from other races.

A United Nations report in 2010 states that over 82,000 of those married in Malaysia are girls aged between 15 and 19, with 16,000 of these girls reported to be under the age of 15.