Friday, 17 December 2010

On Maryam, the 14-year-old bride

To: editor@thestar.com.my

Dear Sir,

I refer to your articles and letters regarding Maryam Mahmod, the 14-year-old bride, namely:-
It is good that this case has been brought to the fore in our country. Here is a perfect example where the usual attendant element of coercion is totally absent from the picture. The girl consented, her parents consented, and the Syariah Court approved. So, the only issue left is whether a 14 year old girl marrying a 23 year old man is right, or wrong.

Many say that it is wrong. They give reasons. Good reasons. They are entitled to their opinion. I respect that. Here's mine: I think that they are wrong. I think that they are imposing their world view and values on Maryam and her family. That is wrong. For Maryam and her parents made the decision freely - and that decision was scrutinized by the Syariah Court; and it approved of that decision.

Whether that decision is right or wrong remains to be seen. But only Maryam, her parents, and indirectly, the Syariah Court, will be the ones who will bear the burden and blame should things go sour in the future.

As of right now, no law has been broken. No one has been forced to do anything against their wishes. So who are we to say that we know what's best for that family? How dare we?!

Just because they don't share your world view that a child has to finish schooling, get a job, have savings, get a car, a house and only THEN think of marriage does not make them a lesser human being than you. It does not mean that you are smarter or more enlightened. It just means that they look at life differently than you do. Bear this in mind: Maryam and her family did all of this on the up and up. They were scrutinized by the Syariah Court. They participated in a public wedding ceremony for goodness sake.

It's all good to talk about rights and freedom. But that includes the right for someone else to do something that you personally think is stupid - as long as it is not illegal.

Jason Kay
Malacca
17 Dec 2010

3 comments:

worldwithoutpangs said...

A person above the age of consent having sex with someone below the age of consent is illegal. Yes, this is marriage and not sex, but it can be surmised that marriage is legalising/validating sexual unions between two persons.

And it is not about imposing a worldview on someone or thinking that person is less for his or her choice. Are the parents and syariah courts not imposing their worldview on a child who -- as society believes -- lacks the maturity to fully appreciate such worldviews yet?

In this instance, the civil laws of the country is clear. The parents and courts have no ability to allow an underaged person to legally have sex with a person above the age of consent. They cannot speak for her.

The laws also indicate that a person under the age of consent has a diminished capacity of speaking for her own consent as she might not have fully appreciated the consequences of her action.

No doubt 18 is an arbitrary age for marking age of consent, it nevertheless gives the opportunity for a person to mature enough to be able to make that choice better.

In other words, nobody is saying she cannot marry this man. The opposers of this marriage are saying let her grow up and then when she reaches the age of consent, if she is still willing to marry this man, by all means go ahead.

Jason Kay said...

Some further thoughts I had upon reading this article and the comments thereat:-

http://www.loyarburok.com/human-rights/women-rule/maryam-manan-what-underage-marriages-say-about-our-society/

Maryam consented.
She has been quoted as saying, “Marriage is the RIGHT of the individual and I AM WELL-PREPARED to take up the duties of a wife.” – http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/12/12/nation/7608561&sec=nation

Further down that report, it was noted that ‘Maya said she was NOT FORCED into the marriage’.

Her parents consented.
She was also reported to have said, “He proposed to me and both our families agreed … that is the important thing.”

The Syariah Court consented.
This is not disputed. There is an interesting IKIM article here on the Syariah judge’s consent – http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?col=ikimviews&file=/2011/1/11/columnists/ikimviews/7725228&sec=IKIM%20Views

It would be presumptuous of me to assume that Maryam was forced or coerced, if the newspaper report is taken as accurate. I would have to first have it in my mind that I know what’s in Maryam’s head better than Maryam herself. I would also have to assume that there were errors in the newspaper report.

Unless we have report(s) that Maryam’s parents are mentally unsound, morally bankrupt, or ethically challenged, we should assume that they are normal parents who want what is good for their daughter. And allowing their daughter to marry is nowhere near the same category as allowing her to do a ’social ill’ or something ‘morally wrong’.

For me, the fact that a Syariah judge gave the final ‘ok’ to the whole thing meant that an impartial 3rd party had a look at the situation and did not see anything wrong with it according to Syariah law – which applies to Maryam and Manan. This is a check on the parents’ consent – to ensure that it was reasonable and right, in the circumstances.

We know very little from the newspaper report about Maryam’s life and experiences other than she is ‘a student at a religious secondary school’, and that she got to know Manan when ‘he was giving tuition on religion to her two younger siblings’. From this, all I would dare surmise is that probably she comes from a family of devout conservative Muslims. Her values, priorities and focus would be entirely different from, say, someone who went to a missionary school, attended Sunday school, listens to Jars of Clay, and makes friendly bets with friends on the EPL results while drinking a pint or two watching it.

Unless we can show that her world view (as well as that of her parents, the Syariah judge and Manan) is inferior in some way, we should be careful when making comments on their RIGHT to FREELY live their lives in the way that they think is proper and correct.

I personally think that getting married at 14-years-old is STUPID. But then, I cannot give Maryam a guarantee that if she marries at 24, or 34, or 44, or never, that she will have a better life than if she were to marry at 14. And for that reason alone, I cannot in good conscience say that she, her parents, the Syariah judge and Manan are wrong. All I can say for certain is that she would most definitely have a different life.

(And, I DO wish her and Manan all the best; because marriage is not easy, whatever your age, whatever your beliefs.)

Jason Kay said...

Of relevance
Thursday February 23, 2012
The Government has banned the sex education book Where Did I Come From? on grounds that it contains elements that could be detrimental to the society’s morals and public interest .. in accordance with the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/2/23/nation/10785057&sec=nation

.

"A couple of years ago, a 14-year-old was married in Malaysia. If she was old enough to marry, she should be old enough to know about the birds and the bees."
http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?col=whynot&file=/2012/2/24/columnists/whynot/10788896&sec=Why%20Not