KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — When actor Norman Hakim shared a photograph of his 12-year-old daughter Marissa Dania on social media, the last thing he expected was an inbox full of marriage proposals.
Astonished, the Gerak Khas and Dia Bidadariku actor took to social media to address overly-eager netizens who were keen to wed his pre-teen daughter.
“I hear this little girl @marissadania_ is going viral. Viral for what reason? What is certain is a father’s DM (direct message) that’s full of solid risikan,” he wrote on Instagram.
In the Malay wedding tradition, merisik (asking ceremony) is the pre-wedding custom of asking a woman’s family for her hand in marriage.
“I’d like to tell you that my daughter turns 13 in July. Still a long way to go.”
In the post, which has been viewed over 430,000 times, Norman advised netizens to prioritise their responsibility to God and their parents before exploring marriage.
“In the words of mama @abby_abadi112, prioritise what is important,” he said, quoting Marissa’s mother and his ex-wife Abby Abadi.
Norman was married to Abby from 2002 to 2008 and they share three children together.
He is now married to actress Memey Suhaiza with whom he shares two children.
The father of five also requested that netizens leave positive comments and pray only for good things on Marissa’s Instagram which has 204,000 followers.
Several hours after Norman’s long post, Marissa shared a picture of herself in Istanbul with the caption, “Don’t take in what others say.”
This brings to light the controversial issue of child marriage in the country.
Child marriages are largely frowned upon in Malaysian society but do occur here as the country’s Islamic judicial system — which runs alongside the civil courts — has laws that allow a Muslim girl below the age of 16 to marry, though only with the consent of the Shariah Court. Permission is granted on a case-by-case basis.
This provision under Shariah law however is at odds with Section 376 of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex with a minor as statutory rape.
Under civil law, sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 is a crime, whether or not she consents to it.
Civil laws, particularly the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act — which applies to non-Muslims — allows for marriage between couples aged 18 and above, but exemptions are also made for girls aged 16 and above, whereupon the consent of the state’s chief minister or mentri besar, must be obtained first.