News that a 22 year old school teacher had got married to a 14 year old girl has caused shockwaves in Malaysia, reverberating around the world. Recall what it was like to be 14 again, and consider if such marriages really can hold water under the law.
I still remember the 14th year of my life vividly. Every day I would wake up early in the morning to catch the morning bus to go to religious school. It lasted for 3 hours every day where afterwards I would go home and get ready to go to normal school ( this of course doesn’t mean that religious school is abnormal, I can’t think of a better description of a day school). Once in school, my friends and I would chat and chat about homework, gossiped about girls that we didn’t like and the latest boy bands that had got our fancy.
This routine continued every day for 5 days a week. Saturdays were for girl-guides and other clubs and as soon as my activities finished, I would catch a bus straight home to watch cartoons and old Malay movies on the then Singaporean Channel 5. Sundays were cartoons, 90210 and homework, lots and lots of homework. In between I would call my best friend, and we would chat and chat to our hearts content. Of course I had to help out with the household chores but let’s leave that out. In short, life was bliss. It had only one purpose: to be a kid.
My body was also changing. I had stopped wearing training bras and began using the real ones. I had gotten my period which was a bit of bother. At 14, I had only the slightest idea about sex. Sex out of wedlock is a no-no in Islam and from the medical books I read, the idea of sex actually grossed me out. I only properly learnt about the human reproduction system at 15, in science class. So at 14, I would say that I was still very awkward and blur. Did I feel and did my mum think that I was an adult just because I had breasts and was menstruating once a month? I don’t think so.
Yes, I wanted to have a boyfriend then, but at 14 marriage was the last thing on my mind. The main focus in life was to do well in school and get into a reputable university so that I can get a high-paying job, buy everything that I ever wanted, travel the world and change it. If my mum wanted to marry me off then, I would have rebelled and ran away from home because in my mind child marriages only exist in third-world countries where women were not educated, where her family had no means to support her and she had to depend on men.
I must have forgotten that Malaysia is a third-world country with third-world mentalities dominating our minds as if we had no other choice. I must have forgotten that not all parents are the same. Not all parents think that 14 year olds are kids, nor understand that having breasts and menstruation do not make these kids adults. Not all parents are patient enough to go through tough teenage years with their kids and encourage them to forget about the opposite sex for a while and stay focused on themselves and their studies.
I must have also forgotten that not all teachers are educators. I must have forgotten that once upon a time our Prophet Muhammad PBUH married Aishah, who was still a child and that is why some Muslims think it’s okay for a kid to get married. I must have forgotten that once a upon a time, Mansor Adabi a teacher of 22 years of age married Natrah, who was then 13 and our grandparents thought nothing of it.
I have forgotten that times may have changed but some minds are still trapped in the Stone Age.
I doubt Prophet Muhammed PBUH would have married Aishah if he was a prophet now and yes, I doubt Mansor Adabi and Natrah would have gotten married. The circumstances would have been different. Primary and secondary education in Malaysia now is free and available to all. Malaysian women have made it to the top echelons of organisations. I am sure these women would not be where they are right now if they had gotten married at 14.
I am appalled that after all these years there are still parents who allow their underage kids to get married and even more when their insanity is entertained by the Syariah Court who consented to these marriages. The country was just shocked by the news of the 11 year old who got married to an old man, we are now faced with news of a celebration of a 14 year old kid who got married to a 23 year old primary school teacher. The kid was quoted as saying “it’s going to be hard to juggle two roles – a student and a wife- but I’m taking it in my stride”.
I am wondering whether she fully understands what she has gotten herself into. Marriage is not about copulating and procreating alone. Everything might be rosy right now but how would she feel in a couple of years, if not months? While her friends woke up to go to school, studying or eyeing on the most good looking guy in school, she has to wake up, get the breakfast ready for her husband and after school, while others went straight to bury themselves in homework and tuition, she has to cook, wash, clean the house before night time where she has to do her wifely duties. How would she cope with pregnancy and morning sickness? She would have to miss school and probably even more after she gave birth. When her friends are burning the midnight oil for PMR and SPM, she is awake at night tending to her babies. What would she decide, if let’s say she got a place at a university that is far away from the place her husband is working. What we she do when she met a lot more men when she grew up? Would she still love her husband or resent him?
Did the Syariah Court, her parents and hubby think of all these? What are the criteria before such a marriage is allowed? Section 8 of the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984 merely states:
No marriage may be solemnized under this Act where either the man is under the age of eighteen or the woman is under the age of sixteen except where the Syariah Judge has granted his permission in writing in certain circumstances.
By this section alone, there are no guidelines or fixed criteria on what constitutes “certain circumstances”. If there were guidelines, I just hope they are not parents’ consent, ability of the future husband to support and the girl has reached puberty!
Getting married just to stop the couple from any immoral behaviour is the smallest aspect of things; parents should look into the bigger spectrum of life. Perhaps they should start by watching the movie Juno or An Education (haha)! Your 14 year old kid may be getting her periods, with breasts, stopped playing with Barbie dolls and all – but they are still kids. Parents should know that teenage girls are also easily attracted to older men who seem to know the world. If only the girls waited a little longer, they would know that they too can have the world, on their own.
If the parents can’t see the big picture, the husband, who is a 23 year old teacher, should be able to. He after all is supposed to be educated and more level-minded. Having people like him as teachers makes me wonder about the quality of people allowed to be teachers of our future generation?
Teachers are not here just to teach but they are supposed to inspire our kids to reach their fullest potential. Here we have a teacher who got involved with an underage girl and in marrying her, he had coincidentally robbed her of her childhood. Something that he probably had, how would he feel if he got married at 14? Somehow he has no qualms from robbing his wife from hers. How is this teacher going to be a role model to his students in school? What is he going to say to his students, study and get married or enjoy your school life, get a job, be the best in what you do and then settle down? If he truly loved this girl, he would wait.
If the parents were responsible parents, they would have lodged a complaint against this teacher and get him transferred and as far away as possible from their daughter. Their daughter has a right to have her childhood and if Article 5 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia means more than the right to live and includes the quality of life, then the parents, husband and the Sharia Court have clearly violated one of the most fundamental liberties of the Constitution.
It is a travesty when on the one hand rape with minors is considered statutory rape because they are under the age of consent and on the other marriages with minors are allowed. I am not saying the teacher is a paedophile but if he was, paedophiles should not be punished by allowing them to get married. Section 8 of the Islamic Family Law and any law of its kind should be repealed.
The 14 year old kid should stay a kid, no matter how much she wanted to get married; she is still a kid. There is a saying that childhood is the most beautiful of life’s seasons so do not lose it by rushing to grow up. If the parents and the guy truly loved her, they should encourage her to choose school, study, friends, gossiping with other girls about the best looking guy in their class, choose love and lost and love again, choose university, choose a career, choose independence. Do not choose marriage at the age of 14, do not make that mistake.
Choose life. Marriage at 14 is not a life.
Noreen Ariff loves being single but yes, she would like to get married…someday. She believes that people should only get married when they are mentally, emotionally and financially ready. Her LoyarBurokking here is on her own time, and her own views. They bear no reflection on the organisation she works for.