Woman relates personal trauma of child marriage


PETALING JAYA: Anna (not her real name) got married when she was 16, although she had no say in the matter.

In fact, it was her father’s choice. After Anna failed to get good grades in the Form Three SRP examination when she was 15, her father decided to marry her off because he felt she wouldn’t succeed in life.

His choice for her was an unemployed 24-year-old.

Today, her husband is still jobless and not a day goes by without her enduring some form of physical or emotional abuse.

“It all boils down to us getting hitched when we were ‘children’,” she told FMT.

The mother of four, who is only putting up with the abuse by her husband for the sake of her children, was commenting on a recent statement made by a minister on underage marriages.

On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said underage marriages were meant to prevent people from engaging in pre-marital sex, which he stressed was a sin in Islam.

For Anna, while marriage could resolve one problem, it created many others such as financial concerns and the lack of a partner with whom to properly raise her children.

She claimed her husband would rather spend money on his car than buy medicine for her children when they fall sick.

Now 36, she is forced to battle her demons and lead a life filled with “what ifs” and regrets.

“Then there’s me striving hard to accept my marriage to a man whom I now realise has issues of his own.

“He is a father, yet he behaves like a child himself most of the time. He is impatient and flares up in a rage when his demands aren’t met.”

Those who oppose child marriages often cite studies showing that they have negative effects, both mentally and physically.

Last year, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said marriages among children were not encouraged in Malaysia as it would affect their health and psychological development.

In July, DAP’s Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching also said such marriages would increase the risk of domestic and sexual abuse.

Of course, not everyone goes through the same experience.

Azira Afika Ali got married in 2012 at the relatively young age of 19, but she is happy.

She says the only difficult phase she went through was having to put up with judgemental stares.

“People looked at me funny because at that time, getting married at 19 was not a trend.”

Meanwhile, Siti Haslin, who got married when she was 18, agreed with the concept of child marriages.

“It will ensure there are are fewer babies born out of wedlock,” the 49-year-old mother of four said.

Nurul Azwa and Nurul Ain Huda contributed to the article