Child marriages not a religious or cultural issue

Child marriages not a religious or cultural issue

After struggling for three days in labour, Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, 12, bled to death. Her baby didn't survive either. It was later revealed that the Yemeni child bride had suffered even before that. Fawziya's mother said her daughter's 23-year-old husband had beaten and even tied her down to have sex with her.

We do not have extreme cases like this being reported about Malaysians but we have read stories about girls being married at a very young age. In 2010, for example, there was a report about an 11-year-old girl who was married off to a 41-year-old man by her father in Kelantan. It wasn't the fact that she was married at 11 that made the news but that she was found starving and barely conscious in a mosque two weeks after their wedding.

Malaysia's adoption of a United Nations resolution to end child, early and forced marriage at the Human Rights Council last week could not be more timely. Calls for banning child marriages have been ringing loud in the last few years, but not much has been done about it as many see it as a religious and cultural issue.

Girls Not Brides global coordinator Lakshmi Sundaram highlights that child marriage is not officially endorsed by any religion.

"People often used religion and tradition to justify certain practices but it's not really a religious obligation by any means in any religion in the world. It must also be noted that child marriages happen in all religions in the world. It is a problem across the world," she says.

Sundaram believes it is more linked to man-made traditions, which can be changed when they are no longer applicable in society.

While people who want to perpetuate child marriage hide behind this religious veil to block discussion and dialogue, others are scared to talk about it because they are scared of being accused of religious insensitivity, she notes.

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