It's not just the men who like child marriages

MAY 21 — There was quite the hubbub over the film “Suami Aku Ustaz” (“My Husband's A Religious Teacher”) and its portrayal of underage marriage as a blessing, sanctioned by God.

While it's easy to point fingers at dirty old men finding the idea of marrying a girl still in school titillating, the film wouldn't be doing well at the box office if it was just men watching it.

No, women are watching “Suami Aku Ustaz” by the droves. Young, impressionable girls and their mothers are giggling and excited about watching it. Don't believe me? Just search Twitter. The gaggle of young women Tweeting their anticipation is sad, but not shocking.

Still, if you peruse the average romance novel, it's really not just a Malaysian thing; the idealisation of forced marriage and the idea that with time and subservience, a woman can change her man into someone more desirable.

The average Mills & Boons novel has plenty of scenarios where due to some tragic circumstance the heroine has to marry a dashing, tall stranger reluctantly. Sometimes, she had to save her family fortune. Or she was betrothed at birth. Perhaps she was some captive found by a tribe and forced to marry the son of the chieftain for protection.

Eventually, though, the woman would find that her unwanted husband had hidden depths and after lots of sex, she would see his icy demeanour thaw and there would be love, children and happily ever after.

Clearly this should have been the real working title of 'Suami Aku Ustaz'. -- Picture by Izzuddin Arudin
Clearly this should have been the real working title of 'Suami Aku Ustaz'. -- Picture by Izzuddin Arudin
The key difference that these rather ludicrous settings have from “Suami Aku Ustaz” is that the heroine is not a minor.

A 17-year-old should be in school, sitting that important final exam. Studying is hard enough without having to cook and clean and be an obedient wife to her husband.

Our children deserve to be allowed to be children. Honestly, the parents in “Suami Aku Ustaz” are terrible parents for deciding to just palm off their daughter because they cannot be bothered to look after her.

Marrying off daughters used to be something parents would do either out of desperation or in olden days, to seal alliances. Newsflash: it's the 21st century and this is Malaysia.

The parents of the girl in “Suami Aku Ustaz” could clearly afford a pilgrimage to Mecca but not to care for their daughter until she finished school? They couldn't even wait for her to turn 18, perhaps go to college or move out and live alone?

The argument that they did it out of fear of God is ludicrous. Is there such a commandment: Marry off your daughters quickly so you don't have to bear the burden of their sins?

I say this: they did not love their daughter enough. They were selfish and could not think of giving her what she needed — knowledge and the ability to look after herself, choose her own spouse and not depend on a father figure for the rest of her life.

What if her precious ustaz fell off that superbike of his and left her destitute? I suppose that would pave the way for the sequel... “Isteriku Balu Meletup” (“My Wife's A Hot Widow”).

I suppose I really should just work on my own film, one entitled “Filem Malaysiaku, Buat Sakit Otak Je” (“My Malaysia's films hurt my brain”).

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.