March 24, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – A recent survey on Malaysian public attitudes and perceptions towards violence against women states that over 70% of Malaysians oppose child marriage in any and all forms.
The survey by Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is a testament that there is already strong support on this issue from Malaysians who want the practice banned.
WAO research and advocacy officer Anis Farid said there should be a firm stance against child marriage from all stakeholders involved.
She said this could be done through little actions such as not calling child marriages “underaged marriages”, because it glosses over the reality of the situation.
“There must be global recognition of the harms of child marriage, instead of promotion of child marriage as ‘an act of love’, painting the picture of child marriage as similar to other marriages but simply termed ‘underaged’.
“The harms of child marriage extend beyond just developmental harm. It also has consequences on a child’s future, happiness and mental well-being, besides disrupting educational and economic opportunities, which have life-long, far-reaching impacts,” she said.
Anis added that the root cause of child marriage could be addressed simultaneously through the proposed National Strategic Plan in Handling the Causes of Child Marriage and amending the legal provisions.
She said that without legal provisions that specifically make child marriages illegal, the perception would still be that child marriages were permissible.
“While laws alone cannot bring forth change, it is an important first step, and an indication of what is acceptable and what is not, in a society.
“Without legislative change and without consequences, there is no pressure for society to change.
“Both legal and societal change must be undertaken hand-in-hand to address the matter,” she said.
Psychologist Prof Datin Dr Mariani Md Nor (pic) from SEGi University said a child marriage prevents the child from experiencing the full spectrum of the adolescent period.
Without gaining all the skills and experiencing all the problems of life, a child who is married will be thrown right into adulthood.
“Imagine a 13-year-old being married to someone below 18 years old? Will they be able to tolerate all the negative aspects of each other?
“In psychological terms, we view 11-year-olds and above as adolescents and those below as children.
“During the adolescent period, they go through transition phases that are sexual, emotional and psychological.
“So what will happen to them if they are married and they have to cope with other aspects like the household, husband and the economics of it all?” she said.
She said research had shown those who married below the age of 18 were likely to face domestic violence.