PETALING JAYA: The younger generation is calling on the government to relook child marriages as youth today have different sets of priorities from what are expected of them.
This was their general response after the government said it would not ban child marriages as conveyed at Parliament on Tuesday by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
However, the ministry said that the government was still committed to curbing underage marriages by implementing programmes under the National Strategic Plan for Addressing the Causes of Underage Marriage.
Nurul Afiqah Ahmad Rusdi, 18, from Ampang, said the reason for not banning child marriages was because the government wanted to increase the nation’s population.
“Maybe the government is not keen to ban it because it is afraid the population will become stagnant.
“But, you see, our priorities are different. Everything is so expensive and hard to come by.
“Even getting a job is hard, and most of us want to get at least a degree or a diploma so that we can get a decent job.
“We want to take care of our families. If we continue to promote child marriages, the girls won’t be bothered to study or even quit their schooling.
“So, it is important for the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 21 years old at least,” she said.
Hareinraaj Tharmalingam, 18, also from Ampang, said it was high time to stop the practice of child marriages.
“One of my role models told me that you are the architect of yourself. If you want to succeed, make sure your base is strong.
“The base for every child is his education. At an age when they have to solve mathematics, they should not be solving household problems.
“This will really affect their future. They have to gain more knowledge and learn to be independent.
“Parents shouldn’t allow their children below 18 to get married,” he said.
Muhammad Idris Shah, 21, from Ulu Kelang, said there was a dire need to look at the reasons behind such marriages.
Many could stem from family pressure or religious issues, while others could be doing so because they think marriage is their only way out.
“Those days, people thought differently, and now our priorities have evolved. You only get married when you reach a certain stage in life.
“A child should not be married at an age where he or she is still trying to figure out who they are. Even I am uncertain about marriage, given the high rate of divorce,” he said.
Alia Maisarah Abdul Manat, 18, from Ampang, said if one were to get married at a young age, one would lose the chance to experience a carefree life.
She said once a person is in a marriage, his commitments, responsibilities and priorities in life would change.
“Just because you get married, it does not guarantee happiness. This may be due to the fact that the person has yet to reach maturity.
“In the end, due to differences, they might get divorced.” she said.
In Malaysia, child marriages are allowed under Islamic law, civil law and customary laws.
Under Islamic family law, children under the age of 18 are allowed to get married if they obtain approval of the Syariah court.
Under civil law, which governs non-Muslims, girls aged 16 and 17 are allowed to marry if approved by the state chief minister.
Under customary laws for non-Muslim indigenous people, there is no age limit on marriages.