APRIL 7 — Child marriage is an abhorrent way to resolve the issue of premarital sex among teenagers as it ends up harming young girls, especially if their sexual partners are adult men.
Pasir Puteh MP Datuk Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad from PAS appears to have failed to distinguish between teenagers, who are no more than a few years apart, having sex, and older men taking advantage of female minors. The former is a case of lustful kids bonking, while the latter is paedophilia.
In both cases, it is statutory rape if an individual is aged below 16. I would argue that Malaysia should have a close-in-age exemption, similar to the US, to decriminalise consensual sex if both partners are significantly close in age, like sex between a 15-year-old and 16- or 17-year-old, or if they are both below the age of consent.
However, we should prosecute adult men who have sex with minors below 16, instead of rewarding them by allowing them to marry their victims. These men are paedophiles.
Yet, Nik Mazian has suggested child marriage as a general solution to premarital sex. The federal lawmaker also apparently doesn’t understand the fact that a minor legally cannot give consent, even if a man does not “force” her into sex.
People have the right to take a stand against premarital sex if they feel it is wrong based on their religious beliefs. They can push for sex education and raise awareness on statutory rape. But they shouldn’t approve of paedophilia.
We cannot continue to legalise child marriage for Muslims.
Last year, there were more than 1,000 applications to the courts from Muslims in Malaysia to marry minors. Here, Shariah laws allow Muslim girls below 16 to be married with consent from the court, although the legal marrying age for Muslim girls and boys is 16 and 18 respectively.
The legal age for marriage should be set at 18 years for all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Child marriage does not protect girls — it ends their education opportunities, harms their health and puts them at risk of domestic violence.
According to Girls Not Brides, 15 million girls around the world are married every year before they turn 18, with one in three girls in the developing world tying the knot by the age of 18.
There is a high likelihood of child brides dropping out of school. Girls who give birth before turning 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their early 20s. Plus, child brides are at risk of HIV/AIDS because they may lack knowledge about or are unable to demand for safe sex.
If religious folk really believe that premarital sex is harmful, then why don’t they educate girls on their right to say no to sex, and teach boys and men to respect girls and women?
Why force young couples to legally bind themselves to each other through marriage when they’re not ready to set up a household? How can they have children when they’re just children themselves?
It’s even worse if it’s a much older man and a young girl. That’s an abomination.
Religion is often used to justify harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.
There is a difference between respecting one’s faith and allowing the violation of human rights in the name of religion.
Human rights is not a “western” concept; it’s meant to protect everyone regardless of gender, race, religion and sexuality, so that they’re able to achieve their full potential.
How can a religion be merciful if it puts a girl at risk of abuse and robs her of the chance to be whoever she wants to be?
Marriage is a huge responsibility. Children below 16 are not mature enough to make the decision to enter marriage.
Let children be children.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.