LoyarBorak #4: Child marriage, education, and society

LoyarBorak-1LoyarBorak features discussions of selected issues in either written, video, or audio formats.

LoyarBorak #4 features selected highlights of a discussion which took place on Twitter between Adrian Ng and Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar on 13 December 2010. The discussion, started after Adrian tweeted this link about the much hyped news about the marriage of a 14 year old to a 23 year old. As the discussion progressed, Johan Hadi, Syahredzan Johan, and Syazwina Saw also joined in. Please borak along in the comments section.

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Hasbee: The article reported that the son-in-law has been accepted as anak angkat [stepchild]. Isn’t that considered as incest? I don’t get all this anak / abang / adik / kucing / kambing / lawyer / angkat [step child / sibling / cat / goat / lawyer] shit.

Adrian: Hahaha yes I read that part too. I find it amusing that such a thing can happen in the family (re anak angkat [stepchild]).

Hasbee: I am not sure if anyone has done any research, but I suspect that incidences of incest among the ‘Malay’ community may be caused by the abang-adik

Adrian: No offence, but what I think is that it might be because the Malay community does not have the family surname, unlike the Chinese community, which makes
it hard to track the family tree. For example, in a case of a really distant relative, or where the family has lost track of the family tree, no one would actually know who is who, in my honest opinion.

Hasbee: No offence taken. But I am quite sure there are other communities with no family surnames. Also, if you are in a traditional Malay community, you would know all your relatives. There is a lot of vested interest put in to track and maintain the bloodlines.

Adrian: I have heard of instances where cousins were dating each other, but they only discovered the bloodline very late in the relationship.

Hasbee: When my family moved to KL, my relatives made an effort to take me to visit ALL the graves of my ancestors, and asked me to memorise their locations.

Adrian: That is good for you and your family. That way you can’t forget your family roots.

Hasbee: I think that’s due to the fragmentation of traditional communities, which is then due to ‘progress’. Plus, there is a whole lot more people in the family now.

Syahredzan: This not the first time I heard that theory (re family surname). But I think in this case it is more of sexual repression.

Johan: Sexual repression which is due to religious fundamentalism. You can’t repress human instinct. It is human instinct where it will find it will find or force its way out. It is not only about fundamentalism. Incidents like these are also a result of our culture. Our society tends to say “no, this is wrong” but it stops there, and is never explained further. All the curiosities that build up inside then leads to things like incest.

Adrian: Both your points on sexual repression and religious fundamentalism are equally valid. The most important thing is to find a balance between the two to keep up
with the changes as the world progresses. But then again, it isn’t all about sexual repression, is it? The question is more of the value of marriage. In this case, it seems fine from a religious perspective. But from a civil law perspective, isn’t there a minimum age in relation to marriage? I mean we have conflicting laws where civil law states marriage is only lawful after certain age against marriage that is permitted by Islamic law. Isn’t the spirit of reading/appreciation of the law all about the meaning of circumstances, intents, purposes? And in this case, the question is about marriage with a minor. Are there any such cases outside Malaysia? My point really is — should a minor have that right to make such a decision? Can he/she exercise his/her right responsibly at such a young age? Personally, I think marriage with a minor is no difference to paedophilia.

Hasbee: Sorry, I have not been following cases outside Malaysia. But if I may comment, how are minors and adults differentiated? Is it just an arbitrary choice? I am just thinking out loud by the way. Please don’t hold it against me.

Adrian: Hey no worries. It is good to talk about it. I think generally, a minor is of the age 16 and below, although the age barrier varies in different countries.

Hasbee: There is a wide variance if you take a look at the age of consent in some European Union (EU) countries. Let’s take religion and the law out of the equation for a while. In the EU, age of consent varies from 13 in Spain to 18 in Turkey and Malta. My question is, how are these ages set? Is it set based on social convention? In some countries, there is even differentiation in age of consent based on gender and sexual orientation. My argument is that this setting of the age of consent is arbitrary. Even with the influence of religion. It is all done based on social convention. It is a social construct. The current ways our societies are built operate along these lines, where OTHER people make the decisions, and we just argue over them. He he sorry. I think I just lost my train of thought. Tweetup nanti sambung la [We'll continue this discussion at a Tweetup].

Adrian: LOL!!! Suddenly lost pulak… hahaha.

Hasbee: But the one thing I absolutely hated about the incident was making it public during a mass wedding. I mean all this focus on ‘celebrity’ for any reason is really really depressing. I think my point is, at the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their decisions, whether it is good or bad. In this case, there are many levels. I understand the socio-political elements of it, but I am an advocate for the choice of the individual over the state or over any form of organised authority for that matter.

Adrian: OK, I’ve learnt something new. I noted that all this is done based on social construct and dynamism of society. So fundamentally, the correct focus of our education system is of utmost importance, where it should be able to assist the individual to make the correct decision. But we can not deny that while the individual has his/her right to make decision, one should also consider if the individual is in a position to decide responsibly. As such, my point is in relation to minors’ right to decide responsibly on marriage. Unless society is mature enough, this could be a wrong precedent to set.

Hasbee: Yes. Our focus thus far has been to avoid scarcity where everything has been geared around that; the whole construct of the society. But on another level, the ruling class creates scarcity because that keeps them in power. Education in a wide sense is important; but not the narrow limited specialisation that we are used to now. I understand what you mean, and I am torn between different perspectives that I have and one of which may be too controversial to state here.

Adrian: Haha I have some controversial thoughts too. We will discuss this during our Tweetup. In my honest opinion, when it comes to issues such as this i.e. marriage
with a minor, parents play an important role, as whether rightly/wrongly, they are duty bound as parents.

Hasbee: At the end of the day, how are we really to determine if an individual has the capacity to make the right decision?

Adrian: Well, which then again come back to my same point, it all lies with the education instilled into society and the maturity of society culturally on who is able to make that decision. It will be never ending.

Hasbee: It is like Schrodinger’s cat. I agree that parents play an important role. But in this case, parents also suka [like]. So what do we have to say to that?

Siti Maryam Mahmood, 14, (right) and Abdul Manan 23, (left), whose marriage has triggered a call for fresh debate on child marriage. [Source: www.straitstimes.com]

Siti Maryam Mahmood, 14, (right) and Abdul Manan 23, (left), whose marriage has triggered a call for fresh debate on child marriage. [Source: www.straitstimes.com

Syazwinasaw: Nyampuk sikit [to cut in a little]. That’s the thing I don’t get — that the parents are behind this. Look at the age between bride and the bridegroom; it is 14 and 23 years old. It is a big maturity gap. Even in cases where people marry later and with a large age gap, say 8 or 9 years gap between them, they struggle to understand each other. Ini pulak budak lagi [what more, in this case, she is a minor].

Hasbee: Yes. I am well aware of that. I am for a case-by-case approach, but I think society is not geared for that. Plus, some even opine marriage itself should be ‘outlawed’. If society is not stuck in the ‘overcoming scarcity’ paradigm, most of the things we discuss today will be irrelevant. The narrow education scope gears us towards specialised production to support capitalistic industries, which narrows education even more. It is a downward spiral. And along the way we invent all sorts of conventions to govern our society as such “Sheep who don’t need a sheepdog”. What we need is to remove ourselves from ‘this reality’. So I kind of identify with the idea of ‘letting go’. The only language that has any currency in our society is an economic one, which the ruling class monopolises. I don’t trust the ruling class to relinquish their monopoly anytime soon. They will just probably give us more avenues of organised dissent. Organised religion on the other hand will just subjugate us. Note the difference between organised religion and a belief.

Adrian: The environment that we are in now is silo-ed and will be even more silo-ed with this incident, which will leave everything in a more confused state.

Hasbee: We all must learn to let go. Jadi macam sufi atau Jedi [Be like a sufi or Jedi] where the material is immaterial. At some level, we need to realise that. Ini semua construct manusia [this is all a human construct]. At some point, we all have a connection with the universe/creation. Religion is just to rationalise this process I guess.

Adrian: Noted on your point about letting go. Again, I think it is equally vital that a correct focus on education is instilled to our society, lest it will be downward spiral like you imagined. I agree with your well-said point about the connection with the universe/creation, while religion is to rationalise. As for ‘letting go’, I am already the master. It is amusing how ones play with construct manusia [human construct] can become so complicated.

Hasbee: OK enough bullshit. Kembali kerja [back to work]. Tata tweeps!

Adrian: Hahaha balik kerja [back to work].

Adrian is a confused accountant who has a heart of a Care Bears, lived in the Smurf Village, while defending the Universe like a Thunder Cat. He tweets @AdrianNCF.

Hasbee has a band and is a bona fide Mat Rock. He is also supremely cool, and tweets @Hasbeemasputra.

Johan is a semi-yuppie fan of subcultures who likes to think he has a keen interest in things related to the human condition. Feels he ought to butt into any topic being discussed. He shares his opinions on Twitterjaya (@j_stratslinger) but actually trolls most of the time.

Syahredzan is a young lawyer and a partner at a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur. He fancies himself to be a political critic and social commentator. In truth, he is just another Malaysian who is far too opinionated. He is passionately patriotic, although not in the conventional flag-waving way. He believes that Malaysia still has a lot of unfulfilled potential if only its people learned to unite rather than divide. @syahredzan is his handle on Twitter.

Syazwina spends her days subediting legal commentary for erratic punctuation and her nights doing editorial work for writers she believes in. She rants @syazwinasaw for a better Malaysia, or so she hopes.

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