PETALING JAYA: Hashtag campaign #pelajarbukanpengantin(#schoolnotspouse) to end child marriages is gaining momentum with Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Klang MP Charles Santiago among the many who have pledged their support to the campaign. It was launched on Tuesday.
In his Facebook post yesterday, Santiago said: “It’s about time that we have open discussions on the issue of child marriage for it deprives a child of her rights and robs her off a childhood as well, not to mention the physical, sexual and emotional trauma.
“I therefore applaud the initiative by a group of non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and individuals who have started the ‘Pelajar Bukan Pengantin’ or ‘Student Not Spouse’ campaign.
“I pledge solidarity with their call to ban child marriages in the country and urge more Malaysians to come forward to support this initiative as well.”
Initiated by civil society groups and individuals, activists, non-governmental organisations, students as well as youths, #pelajarbukanpengantin hopes to put pressure on lawmakers to push for a law to ban child marriages in Malaysia.
“This campaign was started by a group of concerned citizens who want to make child marriages a matter of history in 2018. No child marriages, no exceptions. Children belong in schools, not marriages,” said lawyer Robyn Choi.
“So far, what has been missing in the discussion about child marriage has been the voices of children themselves. We hope to get their voices heard through this campaign because this is, after all, about them,” added the former secretary-general of National Human Rights Society, Hakam.
Students, she said, were an integral part of the campaign, which is a platform for them to voice their views on child marriage.
“This weekend, the campaign will reach some 600 children from the PPR (People’s Housing Project) flats in the Klang Valley where we hope to get their views and input on solutions they see to this problem. We also have university and secondary students doing their own research and hopefully, we will hear their views in days to come. We want them to lead the campaign,” said Choi.
To support the campaign, Malaysians are invited to take a selfie with the words “Pelajar Bukan Pegantin” (in Malay or English) and post it onto their Instagram accounts with the campaign hashtag.
At press time, 119 people have done it.
“If there is any time to push for a change, it is now, with Malaysia Baru and our new government. We hope that our parliamentarians will push for this new law if not in this parliamentary session, then the next,” she said.
“This is not a problem faced by a particular community. This is a Malaysian problem and we need everyone to get involved.”
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