Some people have a knack for digging holes to bury themselves in and then, when they are criticised or ridiculed, dig them deeper.
Such a person is Shabudin Yahaya, the MP for Tasek Gelugor.
Early this month, he incurred the wrath of the nation after he made controversial remarks about allowing rapists to marry their victims. He was attacked from every corner – from Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, young and old and politicians from both sides of the divide.
Then, when Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced he would table a motion to censure him at the next sitting of the state assembly, he said Lim would be questioning Penang’s Islamic family law if he went ahead.
Someone forgot to tell Shabudin to stop digging his hole. He should have known that in this age of unbridled information dissemination, his remark would be quickly misinterpreted. Sure enough, talk spread all over social media that he was now accusing Lim of denigrating Islam.
Of course, straight thinking people know that not everything in state Islamic laws is true to the Islamic spirit. But try telling that to the hordes out there already licking their lips for Shabudin’s blood.
Indeed, as an educated person – and a politician at that – Shabudin should have been more careful with his words when he made his controversial remarks in the Dewan Rakyat. His clarification, which was put out in full by Bernama a couple of days later, came too late.
However, in the clarification he did say: “Based on my experience of past cases, I argued that flexibility and the discretion of the judges must be maintained to allow the courts to rule on cases of statutory rape involving consenting partners who are in a relationship and be treated differently from non-consensual rape as opposed to an outright ban on underage marriages.”
Really? The best people to decide whether a young girl or boy is ready for marriage would be the parents, not judges. How well would a judge know children who are not his own? He only knows what he reads about them. These facts are prepared by lawyers, who, like the judge, would have had minimal contact with the children.
The impact of child marriages on the community will not be felt for several years. As a former shariah judge, Shabudin must be aware that men can easily divorce their wives and escape the responsibility of paying maintenance to their former wives and children. Shariah laws, with respect to divorce, are not well enforced.
There is an epidemic of single motherhood in Malaysia. Who takes care of these young mothers when their husbands abandon them? Many who marry early stop their education and therefore have no skills or work experience.
What about their children? What father figure or male role model do they have?
Is it not just Lim who is against child marriages. Every right thinking person is against them.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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