LET me get to the point. I don’t care what your religion says - wrong is wrong.
A widow should not have to die in a fire with the dead husband. And under no circumstances whatsoever shall a child be married off to a man.
Malaysians need to demand that our Government put a stop to child marriage. We need to demand that our politicians, Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, their offices and officials uphold basic human rights.
Their allegiance must be towards the protection of children without any ifs and buts. There must be no negotiation or consideration when it comes to protecting our children. Child marriage is abuse of the worst kind.
Torture was once an acceptable punishment. Slavery too was once acceptable. But neither is today.
We are no longer living in the middle ages where a child, especially a female one, is deemed a property, a chattel to be traded for money, influence or favours. Something that may be the norm of ages past or even years past does not justify its continuation in any way, shape or form when human civilisation has progressed and we are informed by knowledge and values that say such practices are an abomination of human rights.
Malaysia is the perfect case study where religion is allowed to dictate the laws of the land and in so doing has failed its people miserably. Malaysia’s civil law dictates that the legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for male and 16 for female. And yet in the period between 2010 and 2015, approximately an average of 1,045 child marriage applications were recorded per year to Muslim children (Hansard May 19, 2016).
Let that number sink in.
Imagine the lost childhood and potential life opportunities snatched from that child, and possibly for his or her progenies, to grow as full human beings. Imagine the horrors a young girl goes through at the hands of a sick paedophile. All this in the modern world of 21st century Malaysia!
Because in Malaysia, in spite of our civil laws, the state Islamic laws allow 16 as the marriageable age for girls and the Shariah courts can provide consent for any age below that. That endorsement provided the implicit authority for paedophiles and perverts, weak parents, authority figures, even police and political leaders with a certain religious conservative-bent to be not just apologists but also enablers of child marriages in this country.
And thus we hear the office of the Deputy Prime Minister suggesting a standard operating procedure for child marriages? Really? For child marriages? This can only happen when religion trumps reason.
In the midst of a contentious American presidential campaign in 1960, John F Kennedy famously said “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me”.
That is how our elected representatives and political leaders need to be if our nation is to be united and to progress, and our citizens irrespective of beliefs, and non-belief, is to be treated equal and with full dignity and human rights.
And here we are with child marriage, and the only defence for it has been by religion. That is precisely why religion and its influence cannot have a place in governance. Any right-thinking human being educated in this century will never agree to even a hint of allowing child marriages. But religion and the religious do not care for right-thinking.
It only cares that you follow its edict, despite many scholars casting doubt on the veracity of the saying, or hadith, used to assert Aisha’s young age. Reason and humanity be damned.
Taking all known accounts and records of Aisha’s age at marriage, estimates of her age range from nine to 19. Because of this, it is impossible to know with any certainty how old Aisha was.
What we do know is what the Quran says about marriage: that it is valid only between consenting adults, and that a woman has the right to choose her own spouse.
As the living embodiment of Islam, Prophet Muhammad’s actions reflect the Quran’s teachings on marriage, even if the actions of some Muslim regimes and individuals do not.
A stateswoman, scholar, mufti, and judge, Aisha combined spirituality, activism and knowledge and remains a role model for many Muslim women today. The gulf between her true legacy and her depiction in Islamophobic materials is not merely historically inaccurate; it is also an insult to the memory of a pioneering woman.
Those who manipulate her story to justify the abuse of young girls, and those who manipulate it in order to depict Islam as a religion that legitimises such abuse have more in common than they think.
Both demonstrate a disregard for what we know about the times in which the Prophet lived, and for the affirmation of female autonomy which her story illustrates.
When we invoke religion, faith or belief in public policy, worse still in law, how do we determine truth? Faith and belief by its very definition has no anchor in reason. Who will be the judge of it? As it is we already have a Chief Justice of the Shariah Court in Selangor proposing an SOP for evaluating the mystical and witchcraft (sihir) in adjudicating cases.
Once unreason takes hold of authority, who will stop it? They cannot be reasoned with.
The unreasonable have God in their corner – so they say. The apologists caught between unreasoned belief and humanity does not have the courage to act on their humanitarian conscience because they believe their God dictate it so. And society and the citizenry suffer. Who shall rescue the poor children?
Religion must be banished from government and governance. Humanitarian empathy and reason must be the primary driver of law and order.
Our children cannot be bargained or compromised for any God or faith.
There is no excuse that justifies the destruction of a child’s life in return for pleasing a supposed religious allowance.
It is time our elected government and representatives put a stop to this travesty of human misery and child abuse.
Raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 irrespective of religion and/or custom without exception. No SOP required.