Outrage over the recent marriage of a 41-year-old Malaysian man to an 11-year-old girl has reignited a conversation about child marriage in the country, leading a group of NGOs to launch #PelajarBukanPengantin (#StudentNotSpouse or #SchoolNotSpouse), a social media campaign to end child marriage, last week.
The Malaysian government has said it is “unequivocally” opposed to child marriage and that steps are being taken to raise the minimum marriage age for all to 18, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. But activists are calling for action and stricter laws.
Every two seconds, a little girl gets married. Child brides are often made to leave school and more likely to experience domestic violence. They are at higher risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications (Global Citizen, 2018) #pelajarbukanpengantin#schoolnotspousepic.twitter.com/cG8TatvWNI— ︶︿︶ (@73173T6U2) July 20, 2018
My brother is 15.— Syuba Malin Thurai 🌺 (@syubamalin) July 21, 2018
Last year he wanted to be a mathematician, now he wants to be a pilot instead.
He loves football, hates veggies.
Given a choice he’d eat McD for the rest of his life.
He is 15.
He is NOT ready for marriage and neither is that child. #PelajarBukanPengantin
Take Action: Tell world leaders to stop child marriage for good
My first marriage proposal is when I was 15, before SPM. As it is traditionally done, through my parents. He was 30. Family friends' son. My parents said no but offered my 21 & above sisters. On condition must be after finish degrees. #pelajarbukanpengantin#schoolnotspouse#t— #EndChildMarriage - Azira (@ladymissazira) July 22, 2018
“This campaign was started by a group of concerned citizens who want to make child marriages a matter of history in 2018,” lawyer Robyn Choi told The Star on behalf of the campaign. “If there is any time to push for a change, it is now … This is not a problem faced by a particular community. This is a Malaysian problem and we need everyone to get involved.”
The stereotype of the "sweet young bride" is dangerous for girls. Young girls should not be groomed to simply be the pretty wife. We must teach them be strong, independent and that they are beautiful just the way they are.#HaramkanNikahBawahUmur#PelajarBukanPengantin— Majidah Hashim (@majidahhashim) July 22, 2018
I want to see more Muslim men stand against child marriage.— Abby Latif (@abbylatif) July 18, 2018
I want to see more Muslim men agree and fight for all their daughters and other people’s daughters to never be subjected to married life below 18 years old. #HaramkanNikahBawahUmur#PelajarBukanPengantin
No matter if they come from families of middle class or lower class income, whether they are 11 or 15, I’m sorry but child marriage is wrong, and should be made illegal. It is wrong and you know it. Tak perlu jadi liberal pun untuk berfikir sebegini.#PelajarBukanPengantin— Mr. Nice Guy | Haramkan Nikah Bawah Umur (@KaelSansSouci) July 21, 2018
While the minimum age of marriage in Malaysia is 18 under civil law, girls as young as 16 can be married with the permission of the chief minister of their state. However, Malaysia has two legal systems, and under Sharia law, Muslim girls can be married at any age with the approval of a Sharia court.
Malaysia’s child marriage statistics are not widely available, but the country’s family and community development deputy minister reported in 2010 that 16,000 girls under the age of 15 were married.
In countries like Malaysia, where the legal age of marriage is already set at 18, legal loopholes allow children to be married before they are ready. Often this means they lose out on the opportunity to finish their education and pursue their dreams.
Both poverty and lack of education are major drivers of child marriage globally, according to UNICEF, and the harmful practice disproportionately affects girls. More than 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children.