Top News: Pandemic may lead to more child marriages

Top News
Girls who marry young are at high risk of health complications due to early pregnancy. Photo: TeenVogue/TALLULAH FONTAINE

Top News: The women’s rights organization Sisters in Islam warned that the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to an increase in child marriage cases worldwide, including in Malaysia.

Poverty is the big cause lead to child marriage.

The organization’s communications officer, Aleza Othman. She said that the economic weakness has forced many families into deeper poverty. It is driving some families to marry their daughters to reduce their financial burden.

“Marrying a daughter to someone who has the financial means to provide medical resources, particularly health insurance can be seen as a way to safeguard a young girl’s well-being during a health crisis.”

“This is definitely not the case as girls who are married young have a high risk of developing health complications due to early pregnancies, lack of access to healthcare and increased exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.”

Aliza cited a report on community organizations in Sabah as saying that between 2011 and 2016, Sabah recorded the marriages of 955 girls under the age of 18, of which 505 were Muslim girls. From 2005 to 2015, there were 5,215 non-Muslim child marriages.

She added that there is no other public information about age-based marriages in Malaysia.

The annual international campaign against gender-based violence calls for action to protect girls from child marriage.

So far, only Selangor has raised the minimum legal age of marriage for Muslims to 18, while the federal territories, Penang, Sabah, Johor, Malacca and Perak have agreed to amend their Islamic family laws.

Education is essential to change the perceptions of people in rural areas, especially in Sabah, where 14-year-old marriages are still common.

Winnie Yee, chairperson of the Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group, said.

“They don’t see it as a problem because it’s so normalised, many generations have been practicing the same thing. For them it is just the way it is.”

Yee added that there is still a lack of formal education channels in these areas.

“Many of them do not have access to kindergartens or playschools, so when they go straight to standard one, they don’t even know how to hold a pencil, let alone count.”

“These kids are left behind and struggle in school. This encourages many girls to drop out of school, after which they are pressured to be married off once they reach puberty.”

Melissa Akhir, Director of Capacity Development for Women’s Aid, told FMT News. There is an urgent need to reform the child marriage law. Because Malaysia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties.

However, the Sharia court, menteris besar and the chief minister still have the autonomy to approve marriages under the age of 16.

Melissa said that before making a decision, it is very important to provide medical reports, assessments by child psychologists and opinions from social supporters to the relevant authorities.

“The shariah court judge, menteri besar or chief minister must, at least, have a single one-on-one session with the child.”

She said:

“If there is the slightest hint of sexual abuse and unwillingness on the part of the child, they should not hesitate to throw out the application and order a police investigation instead.”

Melissa added that ignorance of children’s sex education and the objectification of children, especially girls. It is one of the obstacles to reforming the country’s laws.

Milo, 15, is part of WAO’s girl takeover plan! The Internet stated that raising awareness is the most important step in eliminating child marriage.

She emphasized the need for young girls like herself to express her opinions. She mention that she encountered difficulties in resolving girls’ rights to peers because they did not take her seriously.

“Girls need to be girls.”

“We shouldn’t trap at home waiting for our husbands. I myself can’t imagine being married to someone at my age.”

Girls take over! The network is a chat channel where girls can participate in discussing any problems they face. Anyone from 12 to 18 years old can freely register and participate in discussions.

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