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Tuesday October 8, 2013 MYT 10:17:00 AM
Tuesday October 8, 2013 MYT 3:47:18 PM
by dr rohana ariffin
The suffering and sexual abuse of child brides must come to an end.
IT came as a revelation to many of us that there are many child marriages in this country (said to be between 900 to 1,000 per year) as well as some Middle Eastern countries.
In Yemen, an eight-year old girl was married off to a 30-something man and she bled to death the next day. Who could imagine the pain and suffering of this poor girl who underwent such torture at the hands of her so-called husband?
This is just one of many stories that have come to our attention. We are very sure that many other hundreds of young child brides are suffering at the hands of older husbands, especially in societies that approve of such unequal relations, which include intergenerational relationships.
Married or not, when an older person inflicts pain on a young child in a society that does not protect the rights of children, this is sexual abuse.
In many societies, children are dependent on their parents or relatives. They are at risk of being denied their basic rights by the supporting structures of family, schools and religion. They could be traded off to anyone else at the discretion, or whim and fancy, of their parents.
Therefore, we see (generally impoverished) parents with very old and dated ideas who would marry off their children to older men, or sell them off to the sex trade.
My question is: how is marrying off a young child any more honourable than trading them off? By putting the legal papers of marriage as a moral requirement, is this not legitimising paedophilia? Can we not call it legalised paedophilia?
Throughout history, some societies had an unfounded belief that if a man has sex with seven or more virgins, the elixir of youth would be found! Thus, many young slaves and girls from the countryside were captured to satisfy the lust of kings and landlords.
With many modern day cross-border human trafficking stories, have we forgotten that many men prefer younger women as sex workers over older prostitutes? Also, there are so many paedophiles out there who have traveled great distances from Europe and other countries to poorer countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to use children for sexual purposes.
If all this is part of a larger picture of paedophilia, where these sexual predators seek out poor and innocent children, do we want to encourage child marriage between young girls to much older men?
Many professionals and researchers have proven that the young girls could suffer many adversities to their physical and mental health after undergoing child marriage, as theirphysical and mental development were far from being developed at that age. This is especially so when she has to start bearing children and caring for them.
My question is: why do these older men not see young girls as children, but view them as someone that they can indulge in sex with, even within the legal framework?
Is there a mental disorder that pervades a substantial number of men, which in turn needs serious attention to differentiate between paedophile tendencies and a healthy sexual drive? All this is important to understand so that our children should be protected from now on.
No social institutions should be allowed to abuse children. No children should be subject to abuses which were sanctified by laws originating from outdated ideas and beliefs.
Laws that were formulated long ago in societies deeply steeped in superstition, ignorance and conservatism, and where there was a lack of knowledge about children’s cognitive, psychological and physical development for their well being, well into adulthood.
In Malaysia, a developing nation with over 95 percent of the population having some form of education, surely some wisdom and compassion could be shown to all children.
Archaic laws must be abolished, and new laws must be formulated to protect all children, and give them the basic human rights they so rightly deserve.
> Dr Rohana Ariffin is a former Associate Professor of Universiti Sains Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer's own
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Dr Rohana Ariffin, child marriage, marriage, paedophilia
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