Father gives away 12-year-old’s hand in marriage
Child marriages are an uncommon sight these days but should they be condemned? The actions of this father made front page news when he allowed his 12-year-old daughter to marry.
The world was abuzz earlier this month when a father gave his blessings for his 12-year-old daughter to marry her 19-year-old boyfriend.
The bride Nor Fazira Saad, 12, and the groom, Mr Mohammad Fahmi Alias, 19, are from the state of Kedah in Malaysia.
Reasons for the early nuptials
As quoted in The New Paper, the groom, Mr Fahmi says, “I believe that by getting married, we have fulfilled the single most important thing - expressing our true love for each other. Marrying early also ensures that we do not commit anything improper.
They were apparently unfazed by the backlash and interest that has been generated by their union and Mr Fahmi adds, "My wife told me as long as I love her, nothing else matters [and that critics] should just mind their own business.”
Legal or not?
Currently in Malaysia, the legal marrying age is 16 for Muslim girls and 18 for Muslim men. However, they can choose to marry before those ages with the permission of their parents and the Shariah (Islamic) courts.
Ratna Osman, the executive director of Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s advocacy group in Kuala Lumpur, argues that the government should raise the minimum marriage age for everyone to 18, rather than allowing the Shariah courts or parents to make exceptions for those younger.
Sharmila Sekaran, chairwoman of Voice of the Children, a rights group in Kuala Lumpur, also said the government should ban child marriages.
“This should not be happening regardless of the fact that the parents had consented. I don’t think parents should be allowed to consent for children the age of 12,” she said. “There has been research done which shows that children at the age of 12 are not sufficiently mature to understand their role within a marriage and certainly in terms of becoming parents; they themselves are still children.”
Child marriage same as statutory rape?
Ms. Ratna made a provocative suggestion when she asked, “How did the judge determine that a 12-year-old was ready for marriage", [and bearing in mind that sex with a 12-year-old is considered statutory rape if unmarried] yet once you do it under the name of marriage, she is no longer a minor? Her body has suddenly transformed into an adult body?”
Yet are these views too extreme? After all didn't our great, great grandmothers also get married when they were 12, 13 or even 14 years old?