Counselling a must for parents, child bride, says expert

A psychologist says sometimes parents from poor families agree to underage marriages as a way of receiving cash assistance. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A psychologist has suggested that the government make it mandatory for families allowing child marriages to undergo counselling, saying there could be several factors involved in such decisions.

Hilwa Abdullah, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s psychology department, said such cases usually take place in rural areas where families are cash-strapped.

“When a case is highlighted by the media or anyone, the parents and the child should undergo counselling for a certain period.

“Once the problem is known, the government can then provide targeted assistance,” she told FMT.

She said the recent case of Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid, 41, from Kelantan, marrying an 11-year-old girl in southern Thailand was an eye-opener.

The underage girl will become his third wife. He has six children from his two wives.

Hilwa said sometimes parents agreed to such marriages as a way of receiving cash assistance to improve the family’s economic situation.

“If this is the reason, the family should receive aid from the government or skills training to uplift themselves,” she said, adding that such cases were often related to social and financial issues.

She said in the case of the 41-year-old man, he could be unhappy with his earlier marriages and should undergo marriage counselling instead of resorting to marrying such a young girl.

“It is right to say the marriage between the two is a form of legalised paedophilia. There are several layers of pull and push factors.”

A photograph of their marriage ceremony, posted online, sparked outrage among Malaysians on social media, renewing a debate on underage or child marriages.

Muslim girls under the minimum legal marriage age of 16 can wed with the consent of the shariah court and their parents.

Karim had told Bernama that his marriage was lawful and approved by the girl’s parents, who are Thais and working as rubber tappers in Kelantan.

He said he had promised the parents that the girl would continue to stay with them while he supported her financially.

He also said he would only formalise the marriage in Malaysia when the girl turns 16.

The girl has said that she doesn’t understand all the fuss over her marriage as she is in love with Karim, who used to frequent her home to buy scrap rubber from her parents.

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