Maryam & Manan: What Underage Marriages Say About Our Society

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)

Underage marriages are not simply perversions of marital norms but an index of our unequal society.

The news concerning the marriage of a 14-year old girl and 23-year old man reveals a thing or two about what can be expected of young women and of our society as a whole. While it is chilling enough to witness the unflinching approval from the state honcho of Islamic affairs regarding this matter, it also raises the question about the power of parental consent that made the union happen.

The notoriously unchallengeable maxim that “parents know best” seems eerily at work here, in that the teenage girl’s marriage becomes apparently acceptable because her parents have expressed their consent. But is that tantamount to the girl expressing consent as well? The young bride appears to exert little to no voice or agency because being a child, she is deemed to know no better both legally and in lore. But then, she would be expected to shoulder wifely duties pertaining to marriage, children, and the household that even most fully-grown women struggle with, all while still on the cusp of adolescence.

If anyone is wondering why there is such an outrage over what seems on the surface a marriage between two willing individuals who smile for the press, then they have little concern over the future of the child bride, and of future child brides who will take the cue from this precedent that has come with an official stamp of approval. If there was a more depressing portrait of unequal power relations in a marriage, it would be between a girl and an adult man. She would be beholden to a man who will have more leverage in deciding if she finishes school, enters university, and gains work experience.

If there was an unmistakable example of property in human form being exchanged between two parties who have power, it would be between the parents of the girl and her “lawful” husband. From this transaction, not only will the man have purchased her chastity, but also the opportunity to police her transformation from girl to woman, her budding sexual awareness, and quite probably, her reproductive choices as well – all done under the guise of her pseudo-protection from other men and ironically, “illicit” sexual relations.

If this piece sounds disrespectful towards a couple who may really be in love and to what may potentially be a happy marriage free from the abuse of male power and privilege, then I will contend it is. However, we must remember that the men representing the voice of State morality and the whole shebang who see nothing wrong in this are actually hard at work to ensure we perform our circumscribed gender roles. Their approval are in tacit complicity with the inter-connected oppressions that can affect all women and girls. It sends out a message that not every girl’s potential and future of self-determination should be valued.

That child marriages happen at all in Malaysia with the express permission of the State and family remain one of the many, if more extreme symptoms of an unequal society. They are not social anomalies. In a society that privileges the heterosexual man in every respect and routinely corners women into limited career prospects and the imagined threat of spinsterhood, it comes to little surprise that for women, marriage is an attractive escape route out of desperation. This is where parents sometimes step in: to “protect” the child from the perils of single womanhood, parents would resort marrying her off. In the end, the ever-narrowing space for agency that is left to the teenage bride is used to make the best out of her situation.

It is little wonder why the popular saying, “silence denotes consent” that serves less as an illusion of feminine modesty than the blotting out of female agency has such enduring power in our culture. Silence is a powerful tool to keep both women and children (girls, in particular) in their place. While not every woman and child are subject to silence by authority, the threat of being reduced as property and voiceless objects is only rarely very far.

Alicia is a feminist scholar with a passion for DIY, karipap and now, of course, LoyarBurok. Her life revolves around writing, analysis, 20th century philosophy and bitching with a warm smile. She blogs here.


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Alicia spends far too much time in front of the computer writing her next 1000-word masterpiece. When she's not writing she is seen slaving away over a steaming pot of tasty gruel.

Posted on 7 January 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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61 Responses to Maryam & Manan: What Underage Marriages Say About Our Society

  1. Serious Shepherd

    @Derek Kok,

    Can I assume that you cannot comprehend what the bride and groom said, about being open minded (like what we have been told when dealing with LGBT but suddenly become otherwise when it comes to this issue) and there are bigger problems?

    @AgreeToDisagree,

    Please take note on the declining family values of the Western society where extended families may no longer exist, and some of the commentators may be commenting from there.

    Also, it doesn't take a person to read The Greatest Story Ever Told or watch Prince of Egypt to notice the most popular profession among ancient Prophets and Messengers.

    @Jason Kay,

    Now that's a 360 degree view!

  2. Hi Derek,

    You have raised very interesting points in your (12 January, 2011 at 9:14 am) comment. My humble thoughts:-

    Maryam consented.

    She has been quoted as saying, “Marriage is the RIGHT of the individual and I AM WELL-PREPARED to take up the duties of a wife.” – http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/20…

    Further down that report, it was noted that 'Maya said she was NOT FORCED into the marriage'.

    Her parents consented.

    She was also reported to have said, “He proposed to me and both our families agreed … that is the important thing.”

    The Syariah Court consented.

    This is not disputed. There is an interesting IKIM article here on the Syariah judge's consent – http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?col=ik…

    It would be presumptuous of me to assume that Maryam was forced or coerced, if the newspaper report is taken as accurate. I would have to first have it in my mind that I know what's in Maryam's head better than Maryam herself. I would also have to assume that there were errors in the newspaper report.

    Unless we have report(s) that Maryam's parents are mentally unsound, morally bankrupt, or ethically challenged, we should assume that they are normal parents who want what is good for their daughter. And allowing their daughter to marry is nowhere near the same category as allowing her to do a 'social ill' or something 'morally wrong'.

    For me, the fact that a Syariah judge gave the final 'ok' to the whole thing meant that an impartial 3rd party had a look at the situation and did not see anything wrong with it according to Syariah law – which applies to Maryam and Manan. This is a check on the parents' consent – to ensure that it was reasonable and right, in the circumstances.

    We know very little from the newspaper report about Maryam's life and experiences other than she is 'a student at a religious secondary school', and that she got to know Manan when 'he was giving tuition on religion to her two younger siblings'. From this, all I would dare surmise is that probably she comes from a family of devout conservative Muslims. Her values, priorities and focus would be entirely different from, say, someone who went to a missionary school, attended Sunday school, listens to Jars of Clay, and makes friendly bets with friends on the EPL results while drinking a pint or two watching it.

    Unless we can show that her world view (as well as that of her parents, the Syariah judge and Manan) is inferior in some way, we should be careful when making comments on their RIGHT to FREELY live their lives in the way that they think is proper and correct.

    I personally think that getting married at 14-years-old is STUPID. But then, I cannot give Maryam a guarantee that if she marries at 24, or 34, or 44, or never, that she will have a better life than if she were to marry at 14. And for that reason alone, I cannot in good conscience say that she, her parents, the Syariah judge and Manan are wrong. All I can say for certain is that she would most definitely have a different life.

    (And, I DO wish her and Manan all the best; because marriage is not easy, whatever your age, whatever your beliefs.)

    Jason

  3. An add-on to make things clearer :

    . . . rest assured that they are not alone or isolated in this **and will receive guidance and help all the way from everyone, so keep those snarky comments about the way other ethnic communities live, or when they can or cannot get married.** MYOB.

  4. They have the guidance of both parents on either side, with the local community and the Syariah Court as well. Even if Maryam and April do not understand the full gravity of their situation, rest assured that they are not alone or isolated in this.

    Also, all that talk about babysitting or housework could be a non-issue as BOTH sides' womenfolk and a horde of relatives even, will likely be around to help and make sure things work out. Why are all comments made in isolation of this fact?

    Oh and serious shepard, I don't think there are any sheep here for you to herd, just PEOPLE of various faiths (mostly non-Christian) who do not appreciate being disrespected by proselytization, even via innocuous nicks.

  5. Your point is?

    I don't believe that anyone is directly pointing an accusing finger at any particular religion. What's being done here is merely highlighting these issues.

    What is your intention in posting those news articles, pray tell? To show that just because it's happening all around the world, then it's perfectly fine? Both of us know that it is a fallacy!

    I just want to say this in response to your above comment, Serious Shepherd – the bride is FOURTEEN-YEARS OLD. April Webster is ALSO 14.

    Get my point?

    I'm 19 now and I dare say that I'm not a very mature person. Fourteen-years old?? I don't think that Maryam and April understand the full gravity of their situation. I don't think they are mature enough, let alone come out and make statements like that. There, I said it.

  6. Serious Shepherd

    @Derek Kok and everybody,

    Let us all be informed with the matter before making comments, and subsequently make informed comments. We can start by reading the news article about this marriage from mStar ( http://www.mstar.com.my/berita/cerita.asp?file=/2… ).

    What the bride said:

    Maya berkata, dia berharap agar masyarakat berfikiran terbuka terhadap perkahwinannya yang mendapat kebenaran daripada mahkamah dan juga kedua-dua belah keluarga.

    What the groom said:

    "Jika saya berkahwin dengan Maya yang berusia 14 tahun sedangkan ada yang sebaya dengannya mengandung anak di luar nikah itu lebih penting untuk mendapat perhatian masyarakat daripada isu diri saya dan juga Maya."

    And some other news article that I encountered:

    "MADRID – A 10-year-old girl has given birth in southern Spain and authorities are evaluating whether to let her and her family retain custody of the baby, an official said Tuesday. The baby was born last week in the city of Jerez de la Frontera, said Micaela Navarro, the Andalusia region's social affairs minister.

    Navarro told reporters the father of the baby is also a minor, and both the mother and the baby were in good health. Her department declined to give details, including the sex of the baby, but said authorities do not consider this a case of rape and that no criminal investigation is under way.

    Under Spanish law, having consensual sex with someone under age 13 is classified as child abuse, an official with the Spanish Justice Ministry in Madrid said. But this particular case is complicated by the fact that the father of the baby is also a minor and it is not clear if he could be charged, the official said."

    "Two 14-year-old school students are now juggling schoolwork with baby care as they have become Britain’s youngest parents ever.

    Hailing from Caerphilly, South Wales, April Webster and NathanNathan Fishbourne had unprotected sex when they were 13 and this year on November 15, April Webster gave birth to son, Jamie.

    The baby born via Caesarean section is healthy and weighted 8lb, 14oz.

    “Jamie wasn’t planned, but I’m going to be a great mum for him. He’s perfect and I’m going to everything he ever wants”, said April Webster."

    My point is that we should all get a 360 degree view on this matter and not targeting and blaming a particular faith.

    Anonymous trolls or not, judge not the person but the words.

  7. @Clarissa Lee

    Speaking for moi now? Let the readers form their opinions on if I said what you decided I said, and also on this matter of marriage itself. As for who in fact is troll or virus, I think it is very clear right now.

    I too think it would make a good interesting sociological study.

  8. The issue is not about us imposing our worldview or moral judgements on society.

    Questions :

    Does Maryam has a right to an INFORMED choice? Let's look at the fact that she is after all a 14-year old. Judging by the Malay/Asian/Muslim culture of her family, I sincerely do not think that she would have been given much say regarding her marriage. To say that she had complete free will and choice whether to marry is a fallacy. As Alicia pointed out, it is dangerous as we allow things to happen simply on the basis that parents have approved of it? I exaggerate, but it's alright if parents give consent to their kids to do whatever is socially ill and morally wrong as long as it is not legally wrong?

    Of course legally, this union is valid. However, what are the repercussions socially, ethically?

    We see very clearly that the human rights of Maryam has been snatched away from her. The sad thing is, she doesn't know it. The sad thing is, she thinks this marriage is 'normal' and perfectly alright.

    Saddening.

  9. Non-nosy Malaysian

    @Kartina

    Thank you for wishing me a good life. I hope the best for yours too.

  10. Hmm, interested that Agree to Disagree said that I said that a man is not legally bound to provide for a 'bastard' child and the woman.

    No idea where he/she got the idea from. I was only talking about how the abandoned child syndrome is a larger PROBLEM in our society and NOT the problem of ONLY the WOMEN who abandon the children.

    I have no idea what the law says about this but probably he is right because much of the law is pretty misogynistic and not been re-examined.

    But it is interesting that, despite his aversion to 'negative' energy, he is basically saying that, let the guy fuck the woman but let him walk away unblemished. We outlaw abortion (other than in selective cases) but what do we do in the case of abandonment and no resource? Probably some guys are averse to putting themselves in the shoes of a woman.

    I was talking about self-detetermination all along but he completely missed the point. But as some said, he may be a troll. Btw, has anyone thought of writing an article about internet trolls? They are like a form of human spam/virus, and I think would make a good interesting sociological study.

  11. Alicia

    haris,

    While The Guardian does have a comment moderation policy, it doesn't always not stop the multiple guises of the troll from commenting.

    If you read Comment is Free every day, as I do, you will find them lurking in every corner free from any blacklist.

  12. @Alicia

    “1) Of course you did not write those laws. Did I say you did? But it’s not surprising that such laws exist if not for (the consent of) people with your patronising attitude. oh before I forget – LOL!

    If you think nuance is only for you to perceive or use, then a lol at your lol

    “2) Intellectual honesty? Please define.

    If you cannot, then you have missed the plot.

    “3) How so? If I indirectly, without express intention, had done so, why must I worry about that? Too bad for people (like you) who interpret it that way.

    Denial of the fact from the 5 listed points. Pro-apartheid supporter perhaps?

    “4) The target group you mean the “weak-minded” and “less educated”? Yuck, they are both really Victorian (particularly the former), disparaging and offensive names. Would you call someone in their face, “weak-minded”? Who’s being overtly disparaging now hmm?

    That would be you and what you clearly implied that I cared to put into words. Breve judiciale non cadit pro defectu formae

    5) Did I think you were talking down to me? OMG, I didn’t realise it because I must be intellectually inferior! lol

    Short memory? " But it’s not surprising that such laws exist if not for (the consent of) people with your patronising attitude. " I guess you might be right too! lols at the lol

    6) I am so humbled by these pithy words!!!

    To indulge the 'charitable' is a humble act!!!

    @haris

    1) A chauvinist no less and a typical one who questioned and labeled the writer first, before the content

    Please view the 5 listed points above before defending the indefensible or judging if there was chauvinism.

    2) and please go elsewhere to play with your pseudo-intellectual contributions

    Free will or self determinism are not 'intellectual contributions'.

    3) or have you run out of online spaces to frolic in when the moderators come to recognize the troll that you are

    Do you know the meaning of troll? Online space doesn't run out, but trolls do compete for space to frolic in.

    4) Insulting a writer who is speaking out against inequality, behind a pathetic pseudonym is a hypocritical act for someone who preach democratic ideas, and behaviour symptomatic of one with misguided notions of what true equality and freedom is all about.

    Nice to have a defense like you. You're not reading or have bothered to study this exchange properly though. Majus est delictum se ipsum occidere quam alium.

    5) I’d rather read good discussions online, and not meaningless pseudo-intellectual babble/insults from anonymous trolls who further restrict our democratic space by filling it with garbage.

    Would you know the difference between garbage and a good discussion? That perceived restricted democratic space is subject to the same caveats you now impose. Education applied without reason ends up with dog pack responses and displays of stubborn and mob mentality attitudes. Theres that gauge to ignore at your own peril education KPI'ers.

    6) so let’s just ignore him as that’s the best thing one can do

    You really mean white wash of context that confirms failures in comprehension you prefer not to acknowledge. Lazy mindedness maybe?

    7) Rest assured if this was the guardian, he will already be blacklisted by now.

    Take your time on THAT learning curve. I hope by the time you qualify to 'moderate' The Guardian, you'd have snapped out of this 'refreshing' rabid mindedness. Could bask in it for ages, it's VERY entertaining.

    hi @Kartini

    @Non-nosy appears more balanced than anything else. Why so harsh? One threatens the guilty who spares the innocent? Or try 'projection' as well. Just a wild guess heh.

  13. haris

    'agreetodisagree' has lost the plot.

    A chauvinist no less and a typical one who questioned and labeled the writer first, before the content…and please go elsewhere to play with your pseudo-intellectual contributions (or have you run out of online spaces to frolic in when the moderators come to recognize the troll that you are?).

    Insulting a writer who is speaking out against inequality, behind a pathetic pseudonym is a hypocritical act for someone who preach democratic ideas, and behaviour symptomatic of one with misguided notions of what true equality and freedom is all about.

    I'd rather read good discussions online, and not meaningless pseudo-intellectual babble/insults from anonymous trolls who further restrict our democratic space by filling it with garbage. so let's just ignore him as that's the best thing one can do for trolls in unmoderated pages. rest assured if this was the guardian, he will already be blacklisted by now.

  14. Kartina

    "Non-nosy Malaysian on 11 January, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    @ Kartina dan yang seangkatan dengannya: Such malice! I don’t know why you have so much hatred in yourself. I hope one day you will heal from whatever episode in your life that resulted in such darkness."

    In our evolving feminist vagsaurus of terms, the above paragraph can be summarized as a troll accusing me and others of the same brainwave to be suffering from daddy issues, and because s/he has such a pure heart, s/he is hoping that we'll be alright.

    You're not entirely wrong there! If I didn't have a hard life, I'd be as patronizing too. I wouldn't be nosing about a 14-year old girl being married off because I wouldn't be sensitive enough about this kind of power imbalance.

    Hey Non-nosy, you do sound like someone who is rarely, if ever, at the receiving end of the stick. Good luck with your life – I hope it is constantly smooth.

    @Alicia, next time put a trigger warning.

  15. Alicia

    For the sake of Agree to Disagree, perhaps challenging and thought-provoking articles should come with a warning for the so-called "weak-minded" and "less-educated" lest they, already unsuspecting and passive as they are (as insinuated by Agree to Disagree), become too impressionable and swallow arguments and ideas whole without thought, agency, rationale, and an iota of intelligence to defend their own opinions, beliefs, and principles. By that extent, there might as well be no Nietzsche, Shahnon Ahmad, or Voltaire for the so-called "weak-minded" and "less educated."

  16. Alicia

    @Agree to Disagree,

    "1) First, you address the “less educated” as incapable of thought, much less opinion. It’s no wonder Malaysia has such draconian laws!

    Misconstrual on your part, taken in isolation our of context to the entire comment. I didn’t write those laws lol."

    Of course you did not write those laws. Did I say you did? But it's not surprising that such laws exist if not for (the consent of) people with your patronising attitude. oh before I forget – LOL!

    "2) I, however, advocate the idea that everybody is capable of making up their own minds when they read my article.

    Thats not what you were doing for certain. Intellectual honesty pls."

    Intellectual honesty? Please define.

    "3) Second, I (and I hope readers and commentors here as well) do not intend to present myself as intellectually superior to others.

    You already indirectly did if not the readers then at least Maryam and Manan by disparaging their marriage."

    How so? If I indirectly, without express intention, had done so, why must I worry about that? Too bad for people (like you) who interpret it that way.

    "4) . . . and present ideas and arguments as digestible as baby food which is basically what you’re suggesting here.

    Absolutely, but only in the context and target group I mention. Trying to misconstrue some more?"

    The target group you mean the "weak-minded" and "less educated"? Yuck, they are both really Victorian (particularly the former), disparaging and offensive names. Would you call someone in their face, "weak-minded"? Who's being overtly disparaging now hmm?

    "Wasn’t talking down to you, maybe it was a case of ‘makan cili, rasa pedas.’?"

    Did I think you were talking down to me? OMG, I didn't realise it because I must be intellectually inferior! lol

    "Ethos and pathos make not logos. And Rhetoric itself is no tool of honest persons or honest governance either."

    I am so humbled by these pithy words!!!

  17. 1) First, you address the “less educated” as incapable of thought, much less opinion. It’s no wonder Malaysia has such draconian laws!

    Misconstrual on your part, taken in isolation our of context to the entire comment. I didn't write those laws lol.

    2) I, however, advocate the idea that everybody is capable of making up their own minds when they read my article.

    Thats not what you were doing for certain. Intellectual honesty pls.

    3) Second, I (and I hope readers and commentors here as well) do not intend to present myself as intellectually superior to others.

    You already indirectly did if not the readers then at least Maryam and Manan by disparaging their marriage.

    4) . . . and present ideas and arguments as digestible as baby food which is basically what you’re suggesting here.

    Absolutely, but only in the context and target group I mention. Trying to misconstrue some more? Wasn't talking down to you, maybe it was a case of 'makan cili, rasa pedas.'? Your article's argument is flawed and based on personal or perhaps social group bias no less valid than that of those in favour of group marriage.

    Ethos and pathos make not logos. And Rhetoric itself is no tool of honest persons or honest governance either.

  18. Alicia

    @Agree to Disagree,

    "To the weak minded or less educated, they might be, so pls take their freedom of thought into consideration. The onus is upon the intellectually capable to communicate in a principled manner."

    "There IS space, but some readers may not have learnt to react or had the opportunity and luxury as some of us had to learn to react, so write in a neutral manner."

    Do you realise how patronising you sound? It's no wonder Malaysia has such draconian laws! First, you address the "less educated" as incapable of thought, much less opinion. I, however, advocate the idea that everybody is capable of making up their own minds when they read my article. Second, I (and I hope readers and commentors here as well) do not intend to present myself as intellectually superior to others. Those who see themselves as superior talk down to others and present ideas and arguments as digestible as baby food which is basically what you're suggesting here.

  19. hi @Alicia,

    Manipulation? Is it my fault that my arguments are so convincing? :)

    1) To the weak minded or less educated, they might be, so pls take their freedom of thought into consideration. The onus is upon the intellectually capable to communicate in a principled manner. This is why the ethos of titles (also affecting the weak, uneducated etc..) needs to be considered in awarding, and that is the reason why Ibrahim Ali had his title removed by Kelantan, though Federal titles have no such luxury.

    The fact that there is space for readers to react to my article allows room for choice to agree or reject. . . . only choice that has been denied are of those who have self-abnegated their’s.

    2) There IS space, but some readers may not have learnt to react or had the opportunity and luxury as some of us had to learn to react, so write in a neutral manner.

    I’d like to humour you on your idea that I’m enforcement a system of values on our poor unsuspecting, passive readers. Is it really true that what I’m “enforcing” on readers really oppressive, evil, and an effacement out all intellectual agency?

    3) I too will humour you then with a response as if you obtusely didn't know what oppressive, evil and an effacement out all intellectual agency is (these are your own terms used to describe so let the reader and the writer judge themselves). To write in isolation of the points brought up in ans.1 and 2 is irresponsible of the intellectually capable but ethically bankrupt, specifically to the herd minded, weak minded and uneducated or even those looking for light reading and tired that end up influenced towards a lack of choice.

    What values exactly am I imposing on our readers?

    4) Only you would know :o) Intellectual ethics before you speak.

    @Clarissa

    1) I supposed many are raised on the diet of happily ever after and never thought beyond?

    This does exist, do not write as if it doesn't and propagate cynicism.

    2) Actually, the bigger question I would ask is, why is a 23 year old man interested in a 14 year old girl?

    Think world of infinite possibilities and accept their right to express self determination even if you do not like it.

    I disapprove of what you say (how you live), but I will defend to the death your right to say (live) it. – Voltaire

    3) The man is not legally bound to provide for the bastard (this is a legal term, without derogatory intentions), and the woman.

    This is an indirect attack on the unborn child of this and all other couples who may be divorced, please use terms that more more sensitive and communicate in a more respectful manner. Derogatory intentions still communicate in this case, particularly when the word refers to the future of a child and success of you have just disparaged. Oblique but nuance fails. In short, a lack of 'Communication Etiquette'.

    4) As for the people who making half-baked comments about older women producing ‘mongoloid’ kids, obviously they do not follow changes in medical technology. Many older women are HAVING healthy kids, and of course, some are at risk because of the conditions of their health. You can be young and still produce a Down Syndrome child or a child with other genetic issues.

    All negative energies in this statement should be sent back to their source if any! Wish not that upon others you would not wish upon yourself.

    @Non-nosy Malaysian

    Bravo. You are at least 1 voice of principled communication and respect for self determination, though the voice of reason is as always still subjective to individual preferences! Yours was one of the best comments here, from the simple basis of Liberty and Free Will no less. Thats the kind of ADUN we need, not all these manipulative unprincipled products of Western cultural subversion fueling socio-civil war between genders and destroying the essence of FREEDOM.

  20. Non-nosy Malaysian

    @ Kartina dan yang seangkatan dengannya: Such malice! I don't know why you have so much hatred in yourself. I hope one day you will heal from whatever episode in your life that resulted in such darkness.

    To Maryam and Manan, I wish you all the best for the future. Don't bother about comments by busybodies wherever.

    To all married couples, young or old, I wish you a lasting, loving relationship. I will never hope for either one of you to die prematurely or for your marriage to end in divorce, unlike some persons here who pretend to care about you.

  21. Dear Clarissa,

    "worrying about having a mongoloid kid" is not the same as saying "older women producing ‘mongoloid’ kids"

    :-)

    Jason

  22. Non-nosy Malaysian

    While I personally do not encourage such early marriages, I am disturbed at the level of 'nosiness' Malaysians are becoming. This is a personal choice. The bride, and groom, had both made clear that they willingly enter into this marriage. If they encounter problems in the future, it's their responsibility. Who are we to regulate and speculate about their personal choices. Should the public be given the right to stick their noses into personal lives of individuals? Hell, no!

    The marriage was legal. The law states that Muslims under the age of 14 must obtain a court permission in order to marry (in addition to parental consent). In this case, they had fulfilled all legal requirements for the marriage, in addition of openly expressing their willingness to enter the union.

    How is it civilly acceptable for the public to comment on the decision? Don't anyone in Malaysia understand the principles of 'Separation of Power'? The Judiciary must be isolated. It must never be influenced directly by anyone, and that includes the public. The whole of Malaysia was in uproar when it was found that V.K. Lingam was meddling with the Judiciary. I ask all nosy Malaysians, how different was what he did and what you are doing now?

    Court decisions are sometimes wrong, granted. However the civil course of action is to apply for a retrial. And only those directly concerned can make that request. In this particular case, nobody, not the bride, not the groom, not the parents had made such application. So who are we to make so much noise over this matter. What legal right do we have? And what legal right does the family have?

    Openly challenging a court decision can be considered contempt of court.

    The husband is legally compelled to provide for the wife. He has a legal obligation to recognize and provide for any issues from the marriage. The wife also enjoy a respected position in society, even if the couple eventually part ways. This is in contrast to sex out of wedlock. The man is not legally bound to provide for the bastard (this is a legal term, without derogatory intentions), and the woman. The woman is judged (societally) as a loose woman. The bastard is sometimes just left for dead. 'Nosy Malaysians' should make more comments about these lot. Nobody is bound by law to provide for them. In contrast to the 14 year old girl and any child of hers, who her husband is legally bound to provide for.

    Should we regulate all decisions made by the young? Should we deprive them of the opportunity of learning from their mistakes? Should we take away their agency and responsibility, and leave all the decision making to 'Nosy Malaysians.' Just because some "adult" think they know better, they feel that they have the right to interfere with the personal lives of others. Hypocritical.

    14 year olds, and other young Malaysians, beware. Parents of 14 year olds, and other young Malaysians, beware. 'Nosy Malaysians' is out to jeopardize your liberty.

  23. The reason why we have ABANDONED babies is because we tend to ABANDON the mothers who are then left with little choice. Those with more resources of course found creative ways out of it.

    Also, the same people who condemned these mothers for wantonness are also the same one's who refuse to acknowledge the right of these kids to have a normal life.

  24. It is interesting that people who do not quite understand what feminism is (which is about agency) are the first to diss it. I am sorry Alicia, but does seem that a number of your commentators do not understand the word that you had just used. However, it does appear as if they are imposing their own judgment on you.

    It is interesting that supposedly educated people can have such naive views on marriage and courtship. I supposed many are raised on the diet of happily ever after and never thought beyond? Probably one of the main reasons for many of the divorces.

    Actually, the bigger question I would ask is, why is a 23 year old man interested in a 14 year old girl? I am sure she may be a mature woman in some ways but I doubt he married her so that he could have a real partner in life in today's complex world.

    As for my own thoughts, it is possible that people have different ideas of what constitute marriages but in the realities of today's world where there will be more options and exposures, Maryam of 14 will not be the Maryam of 24 (unless her husband keeps her locked in a dungeon and controls her every move).Let's assume that 14 year old Maryam is a smart kid who wants to continue her education and develop beyond her marriage (marriage doesn't mean dropping out of school, right, in this day and age?) Maryam of 24 would wonder why Manan married her 14 year old self, or maybe, she never will think that. Or probably, Manan himself would change. I've seen that happening to friends who married young (but at an older age than Maryam).

    As for the people who making half-baked comments about older women producing 'mongoloid' kids, obviously they do not follow changes in medical technology. Many older women are HAVING healthy kids, and of course, some are at risk because of the conditions of their health. You can be young and still produce a Down Syndrome child or a child with other genetic issues. Sure, there is an optimum childbearing age but I am sure 14 or 16 isn't one, since you are sexually underdeveloped at this point and is also at high risk during pregnancy. I am not sure if Maryam herself is old enough to understand her entire reproductive cycle or know how to exert control over that, which Alicia has hinted on. But I suppose, for some people, quantity of children outweighs the quality of care you can provide them, right? Probably why we haven't and may not develop very far, if such thinking prevails.

    I sometimes find it irritating when people cite religious practices blindly, not discerning between practices of the early adherents of Islam (which are culturally-situated to the needs of the time) to the actual teachings of the religion itself. I often doubt the wisdom of the religious 'authorities' in allowing particular practices, and from what I have heard from people who had direct contact with these authorities (because they went to school with them), many of these 'authorities' lack knowledge in many subject areas and are unsuitable for providing life-changing advice, even if they use the Quran as their buffer. However perfect you think your religion is, I am sure you will admit that the practitioners are fallible and prone to arrogance.

  25. Alicia

    Addendum @Agree to Disagree,

    What values exactly am I imposing on our readers?

  26. Alicia

    Agree to Disagree,

    "A cautionary critique in the manner of manipulation still imposes values via taking away choice and IS THE SAME as forcing your opinion in a manner that removes that opinion leaving only your own opinion in it’s place. Different method, same result, effectively imposing one’s values in both cases."

    Manipulation? Is it my fault that my arguments are so convincing? :)

    Choice? Whose choice? The only choice that has been denied are of those who have self-abnegated their's. The fact that there is space for readers to react to my article allows room for choice to agree or reject.

    My own opinion? Well, I did write the article myself, and this is, if you are aware, an opinion piece and yes, it features opinions that are purely my own in which there was no removal of other opinions to begin with.

    Okay, simply for kicks, I'd like to humour you on your idea that I'm enforcement a system of values on our poor unsuspecting, passive readers. Is it really true that what I'm "enforcing" on readers really oppressive, evil, and an effacement out all intellectual agency? If it is indeed true, please enlighten me.

  27. Alicia

    Okay, Agree to Disagree, let's settle this.

    Please, in what way was I being alarmist in the following:

    1) not only will the man have purchased her chastity,

    2) Their approval are in tacit complicity with the inter-connected oppressions that can affect all women and girls. It sends out a message that not every girl’s potential and future of self-determination should be valued.

    3) In a society that privileges the heterosexual man in every respect and routinely corners women into limited career prospects and the imagined threat of spinsterhood, it comes to little surprise that for women, marriage is an attractive escape route out of desperation.

    4) It is little wonder why the popular saying, “silence denotes consent” that serves less as an illusion of feminine modesty than the blotting out of female agency has such enduring power in our culture. Silence is a powerful tool to keep both women and children (girls, in particular) in their place.

    5) Isn’t doing that potentially hurtful to the girl and her future?

    Simply listing something down without explaining (each point) what sounds alarmist to you is a little lazy. I can be a little cynical but alarmist? I don't think so. But I will explain why I do not think they're alarmist statements.

    1) The purchasing of chastity. Hm, isn't that what the husband is entitled to, seeing the mahr is quite likely to be involved. Brides don't come free.

    2) If the religious officials are honest and upfront about the wellbeing of young women, they will make an official statement that underage marriage shouldn't be encouraged, simply because their future is hugely at stake. After all, there are sound reasons why level-headed parents wouldn't want to encourage their own children to marry very early. I mean, if you were a parent, would you?

    3) Yes, society privileges heterosexual cis-gendered men in public and private life. Because being a so-called 'old maid' is so undesirable and even stigmatising, women sometimes forgo a fulfilling career to marry, start a family, and often end up shouldering the majority of childcare, cooking, and housework.

    4) "Diam bermakna setuju" is a popular Malay saying. If one is to see both sides of the maxim, you will find meanings and motives both quaint and sinister.

    5) What is wrong with proposing potentiality?

  28. hi @Alicia you said :

    "To impose one’s values is basically to say, forcefully of course, that “You MUST believe what I say.”. To offer a cautionary critique in this context is to say, “This has happened. Now what we can learn from this. This what I have to say, take it or leave it.”"

    A cautionary critique in the manner of manipulation still imposes values via taking away choice and IS THE SAME as forcing your opinion in a manner that removes that opinion leaving only your own opinion in it's place. Different method, same result, effectively imposing one’s values in both cases.

  29. @Adrian

    " I don’t see how Alicia can be said to be imposing her views on others. . . and they are mostly negative comments (and very long ones). "

    Please read numbered comments properly. Also making people aware that they should make their own opinions is not negative at all.

    " I guess it is much easier to lurk and snipe at people who take the time to write. "

    People who write in a slanted manner that obliquely steals the opportunity via demogoguery need to be sniped. Unless you are supporting Alicia's false flag attack on critical thinking via this article?

    @Ali Davidson

    How is that loony? Unless you think society is so innocent? Or would wish for people to think society is so innocent so you can continue taking advantage of their ignorance?

    @Sam

    First part ok, except that Muslims can go apostate though it is troublesome and they lose their bumiputra status – the main problem with BN run malaysia. Last part no – NLP projection via 'strawman method' same team as Ali, or even Ali himself?

    Hey it's just equality, target the uber wealthy or uber powerful minorities, I bring REAL discourse.

    From your vantage point and resources, it would be remiss to not play ethically, civilisational fairply is a minimum if one is to show the world they are equals, even to those seeking equality.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, LB-ers.

  30. Joachim L.

    Dear Sam, I admire your practical approach to matters. Yes, context matters. Can we not dare dream, be idealistic for once? Pardon me for 'dreaming' or at least trying to encourage people to offer the other side of the coin.

    I agree wholly that this is not about imposing one views but to try to rationalise and have a healthy debate (jabs about medication aside but pun intended) on this issue.

    Also, I would prefer living in a imperfect society where one's views can be heard and exchanged than one where society's will is imposed on you.

    As for the other comments, while everyone is entitled to their views, I feel one time too many are there character assasinations in the comments of each post thus missing each other's point.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, LB-ers.

  31. Ali Davidson

    Sam,

    Maybe if you read the first paragraph, you'd realise I was quoting someone else.

  32. Alicia

    that's to "restate". Apologies.

  33. Alicia

    Sam,

    To reinstate: One's opinions and "imposing one's values" do not necessarily mix. Let's examine in layperson's terms what "imposing one's values" really mean. To impose one's values is basically to say, forcefully of course, that "You MUST believe what I say.". To offer a cautionary critique in this context is to say, "This has happened. Now what we can learn from this. This what I have to say, take it or leave it."

    My cautionary piece is directed to all who are willing to take the time to read and reflect. For people who agree that child marriages are okay, and for those who do not, irrespective of religion or lack of. And the basis of my values? Why, aren't they obvious already?

  34. Sam

    Aha! So, as far as blogging is concerned "expressing one's opinion" is not equal to "imposing one's values"? Okay, I'll take that on the chin, Alicia.

    Now ride with me on this for a bit will ya?

    CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT.

    As far as Islam in 1Malaysia is concerned, I'm willing to bet (and I'm sure AgreetoDisagree will agree with me on this) that a roof-top proclamation such as Joachim's "muslim women have much less rights than their non-muslim brethren (sic)" will not be celebrated with a kenduri by the official keepers of the faith (or even their Royal Heads}. If Joachim thinks otherwise, and still wants to "remove such apparatus", he is welcome to knock on JAKIM's door (preferably with a can of beer) and greet the chap with the white skull cap with a hearty shout of, "EQUALITY FOR ALL!"

    So my point is, what is your point, my dear? Missed potentials notwithstanding, your "cautionary" is directed to whom/what? Not to Malaysian Muslims – coz they are faithful to the Syariah as decreed by 1Malaysia? The nons? They don't have the locus standi to comment on ANYTHING within the 1Malaysian Muslim brotherhood. Surely not that teenager in question? She is happily enjoying her honeymoon?

    Passionate writing from your heart, no doubt, Alicia. But the harsh fact is, in Malaysia, if you are a Muslim, and you aren't really fascinated by the sleepy town of Kamunting, THIS IS THE RELIGION YOU'RE STUCK WITH, no? I mean you can't just quit can you? You can check out anytime you like (via blogs, that is)but you CAN NEVER LEAVE! So what's all this splashing about when the dark fins are circling, get my drift?

    Would you like to leave them alone for now, and tell me what forms the basis of YOUR values, Alicia?

    And Ali Davidson, Whoa! 3G…Subliminal….whatever.. I say man, you reeeally should double-check your medication.

  35. Ali Davidson

    Adrian,

    Just ignore AgreetoDisagree, he's just a paranoid internet troll out to fill the internet with crap. Just take a look at some of the garbage he has posted:

    “It could be that 90% of current bisexuals or homosexuals are products of manipulative social-stalking programmes, neurolinguistic intent and sub-aural or EMF frequency grooming.”

    “Citizens of Malaysia, please note that DAP is employing technology supplied from Singapore’s PAP, (Biopolis National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore run by Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter Lee Wei Ling, likely sourced from USA and Zionist APCO) to be employed via 3G and 4G telecomminications towers, the GWEN towers at Nautilus Bay Penang, a new form of electronic emitter that emits *Subliminal Sub-aural Frequencies*.”

    “So when did the LGBT phenomenon come about? As a means for population control used in conjunction with antiquated or religious laws for political assassination cases as in Anwar’s Sodomy trial or even Crown Prince of Qatar (presumably to create scandal and weaken the Middle Eastern monarchies so that ‘white’ monarchs reign supreme) or even destruction of the Catholic Church by CREATING paedophile personalities to benefit PROTESTANT Churches or even Satanists, which NWO/Illuminati/Federal Reserve/Zionist Lobby/Freemasonry are party to.”

    He's a loony in need of serious medication and psychiatric help.

  36. @Marcus van Geyzel

    Affected by platitudititis? Pleasant and sustainable for certain, but stagnating. She actually IS imposing her views, though somewhat obliquely that the less discerning would not notice but @Jason Kay did as implied by his 'point is simply this'.

    Who is Alicia? There are in fact too many and too diverse Alicias among which some are child brides as well.

    Imposing one’s values on other people via slanted writing is what occured, demogoguery was emoted throughout the tone and style of the article. It was cautionary in an alarmist and negativist manner.

    1) not only will the man have purchased her chastity,

    2) Their approval are in tacit complicity with the inter-connected oppressions that can affect all women and girls. It sends out a message that not every girl’s potential and future of self-determination should be valued.

    3) In a society that privileges the heterosexual man in every respect and routinely corners women into limited career prospects and the imagined threat of spinsterhood, it comes to little surprise that for women, marriage is an attractive escape route out of desperation.

    4) It is little wonder why the popular saying, "silence denotes consent" that serves less as an illusion of feminine modesty than the blotting out of female agency has such enduring power in our culture. Silence is a powerful tool to keep both women and children (girls, in particular) in their place.

    5) Isn’t doing that potentially hurtful to the girl and her future?

    Ans 5: In the absence of all other considerations such as the fact that both parents on both sides including Syariah Court and the relatives that witnessed their kenduri had in joyful and positive settings? NO. There is no potential harm here. And even if they divorce later, which I hope they do not, she and her husband can get married again to different spouses and still live happy and meaningful lives – with or without costly educations.)

    @Kartina

    "I just hope Manan won’t die or divorce her if she does have to quit school. The end won’t be pretty."

    Sub consciously or slyly throwing stones? (See above Ans 5)

    @Sam – Say old chap and jolly good show sometime!

  37. Joachim L

    Great read. The misogynist saying :" Women and children are meant to be seen not heard" comes to mind.

    Equality for all!

    Sad to say muslim women have much less rights than their non-muslim brethren as Marina Mahatir points out in her columns.

    Just few months back, I heard a story about how a friend's girlfriend was to be married off to another guy as a bargaining chip to secure some contracts(among other things la). Terrible to hear at this time and age, right in our backyards this happens.

    Apparently, 'forced marriages' are common resulting in women running away from homes.

    True, neither my friend or his GF were under aged but as highlighted having the legal framework for this to happen to children makes it all the much worse.

    If these women are forced into silence, who else is there to speak for them? Shouldn't we advocate for the removal of such apparatus to allow such things from happening?

  38. Kartina

    I take that back. Divorce will be good if he proves to be a douche. But the damage will have been done.

    I'm setting the bar a little lower and hoping he won't kill her in a domestic dispute. What with women being splashed with acid and stabbed to death these few months because of some men who can't take "no" for an answer, I get a little worried.

  39. Kartina

    Someone's mentioned the biological clock! As if it's inherent in all women to want to have children. Puh-lease. Let's keep things in context. We're talking about a 14-year old girl here. HER BIOLOGICAL CLOCK ISN'T GOING TO MALFUNCTION SOON.

    If she does give birth within her schooling years, she'll probably miss a lot of school. Probably quit altogether. If even adult women are told to "stay at home to look after the kids", it'll be easier to force this particular girl to do the same. Ya know, because the man can support the family and all that shizz. I just hope Manan won't die or divorce her if she does have to quit school. The end won't be pretty.

  40. siewchinteo

    that these two have made an 'adult' decision is perhaps indicative of their maturity?

    the parents have approved, the court too… surely such approvals were not given on a whim and fancy?!

    I wish Siti Maryam Mahmood and Abdul Manan all the best with the hope that their marriage will last much longer than the those who got married when they are not children.

  41. Alicia,

    Taking up a point from your comment, "limitations to opportunities, self-actualisation, and potential from being married and having children from such a young age".

    I wonder sometimes, is the alternative to postponing child-bearing for women who want to have an education, experience, see the world, or career first the better option? The biological clock starts ticking upon the first period, and there are only a finite amount of eggs. (This, of course, does not apply to women who do not plan to have kids).

    My point is simply this: Women who postpone marriage, or motherhood for a fuller (masters, PhD) education, or for a career, or a chance to live their lives – Is that really the best path for everyone? Is going through artificial insemination, worrying about having a mongoloid kid, or bringing your kid to kindergarten when you're about a generation (or more) older than every other parent there really what we want to tout as the 'better option' for women?

    Maryam may have said yes because she's horny, or simply enamored by the attention by Manan … it's her life.

    Let's just wish her well and hope that other horny girls in her position would choose marriage, or a standing order at their local pharmacy for condoms – because the alternative of dumped/abandoned/unloved babies … THAT's the real shame on our Malaysian society.

    Jason

  42. Alicia, thanks for the read.

    I certainly do not think that you are imposing your views onto others. One of the problems with society these days is that people take a "you're either with us, or against us" approach to all issues. Sometimes things are not black-and-white. There should be space for mature debate and ventilation of views.

    This particular issue is one which is at quite a nascent stage of public discourse. People are still chewing on it. Of course, there will be knee-jerk reactions, but there are many dimensions of this issue that need to be seriously considered. This couple could well be a "happy couple" but the acceptance of child marriages may lead to many, many problems down the line on an individual and societal level.

    Is a 14-year old able to make a "choice" on the rest of her life? Perhaps more pertinently – DID she even make a choice?

    As for this thought that if it is "legal" then it should be fine, well, there is a reason that laws are amended or repealed.

    Thanks for adding to the open discussion on this Alicia. Hopefully it will prompt some follow-up articles.

  43. Alicia

    Who is Alicia? I am.

    Critiquing is one thing, imposing one's values on other people is quite another. So yeah, if the couple is happy, I will have to congratulate them. All newlyweds deserve all the happiness in the world. But I've written this cautionary piece to point out that underage marriages pose a variety of problems for a very young woman, problems that have nothing to do with morality but rather the limitations to opportunities, self-actualisation, and potential from being married and having children from such a young age. Isn't doing that potentially hurtful to the girl and her future?

    • Mudcake

      Say, what's the best age for a woman to get married and have babies then? What's too early or too late? A can of worms, this topic. (btw, I'm a stay at home mom now, and I've had to put on hold a lot of things for myself even if I married at 29;) I say who knows what her future lies, she might do it all at 20 when her kids r off at school.

  44. iman

    I agree with Umar Razak that what's wrong being a wife and mother at a young age…..even the westerners are doing it.I remember a 7 year old girl gave birth to a baby( can't remembered whether she was raped or not) but she was matured enough to want to raise the baby herself and willingly be a mother.So what,if Maryam wants to be a wife and mother…. after-all she's doing it legally in the eyes of God.Let's just pray that all are well and they be blessed with love and harmony till death do them apart in their. sacred matrimonial.Think positive……see the brighter side; compare them to the mat and minah rempits?…..you tell me.Nonetheless, whatever you wrote Alicia is a good piece for reading and there are also constructive criticisms.

  45. Umar Razak

    Why are you and (also us) to impose our view on them? Is it immoral for them to do something legal in the eyes of laws? Is it hurtful for you to read 1 young lady decided to get married at early stage. We do not know her reasoning behind this and yet the author implies that these 2 person have committed a big sinful act. Rather than seeing them drifted away like some "budak KL" hanging out in KLCC lake (hugging,kissing,cuddling each other like no one's business), these people chose to build a start a family.Who knows by getting married, they will understand the true meaning of responsibility?

    I propose you write the moral decay in our society regarding teens engaged in drugs,pre-marital intercourse etc.

  46. Alicia – Hi :-) I respectfully disagree with you. I'll take the easy way out on this one and do the cut and paste:

    "It is good that this case has been brought to the fore in our country. Here is a perfect example where the usual attendant element of coercion is totally absent from the picture. The girl consented, her parents consented, and the Syariah Court approved. So, the only issue left is whether a 14 year old girl marrying a 23 year old man is right, or wrong.

    Many say that it is wrong. They give reasons. Good reasons. They are entitled to their opinion. I respect that. Here's mine: I think that they are wrong. I think that they are imposing their world view and values on Maryam and her family. That is wrong. For Maryam and her parents made the decision freely – and that decision was scrutinized by the Syariah Court; and it approved of that decision.

    Whether that decision is right or wrong remains to be seen. But only Maryam, her parents, and indirectly, the Syariah Court, will be the ones who will bear the burden and blame should things go sour in the future.

    As of right now, no law has been broken. No one has been forced to do anything against their wishes. So who are we to say that we know what's best for that family? How dare we?!

    Just because they don't share your world view that a child has to finish schooling, get a job, have savings, get a car, a house and only THEN think of marriage does not make them a lesser human being than you. It does not mean that you are smarter or more enlightened. It just means that they look at life differently than you do. Bear this in mind: Maryam and her family did all of this on the up and up. They were scrutinized by the Syariah Court. They participated in a public wedding ceremony for goodness sake.

    It's all good to talk about rights and freedom. But that includes the right for someone else to do something that you personally think is stupid – as long as it is not illegal."

    http://jasonkaykl.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-maryam-…

  47. Sam

    I say Alicia, they are both muslims and this is not illegal or immoral, in Islam. Muslims here are fiercely protective of Islam, and its own tenets of right and wrong. This couple is probably also like the holy MP of Kulim who declared that he is Muslim first and Malaysian second. Moreover, from the photo, these two don't seem to have been forcibly married by anyone. So why stick your neck out to impose your personal values on a community that's happy with its own? Why stir the hornet's nest, Alicia? Just let sleeping dogs lie, I say (and I hope folks can distinguish between the creatures I mentioned and English cliche's). A better pastime would be, to write frankly about what forms the basis for the values that you espouse, no?

  48. Who is alicia?

    Someone who forgets that freedom of choice and self determinism precludes demoguery. Might be a man-hating feminist too. All kinds of communities and ways of living must be accepted, it is not for us to be allowed to manipulate opinion for our own self gratification at the expense of others, especially in matters or love and life partners. It’s none of our business.

  49. Alex

    oh fine.an underage engaged in sex (which is very prevalent) nowadays are not given due attention while this author attacked the 2 innocent lovely birds. who are we to decide what is the best for them? who is alicia?

  50. Aston Paiva

    This is a great read! Honest and most importantly with substance.

    Alicia hit the nail on the head with this.

    It is the inequality and deprivation of choice that lies at the heart of child marriages.

    The fact that it receives State and Parental approval only makes it more revolting.