Shameful reporting on child marriage in Prai by local daily

Stanley Sudhagaran

Modified 9 Feb 2019, 9:16 am

LETTER | I refer to a news article by a Malay daily on Feb 9, 2019, titled “Saya Nak Kahwin”.

This is one of the most disgusting articles that I have come across. It is a shame that the daily and its editors decided to publish such a story which could be interpreted as supporting child marriage.

What was the daily's intention in writing such a story? Does the child even know what she is talking about? 

What would these editors do if the 11-year-old child was their own? Would they support the marriage and write such an article?

How can an 11-year-old child understand the concept of marriage? She is not mature to understand what she is talking about. The daily is only making the matter worse by publishing her story and destroying her future.

The daily has also gone as far as publishing the name of the child. What sort of media ethics is this? Don’t they know that the child’s identity should be protected? 

The daily could be committing an offence under the Child Act 2001 by publishing the name of the child. I urge the police to investigate them for this matter. 

This article will have a long-term effect on her. What will happen when the child decides to marry someone else when she is an adult later on in life?

Child marriage is common among the Rohingya community in Malaysia. This is due to cultural norms, poverty and denial of access to our local Malaysian schools. 

For many private schools being operated by non-governmental organisations in this country, including ours, it is a challenge to retain female students upon them reaching puberty. The dropout rate of female students aged 12 and above is high. 

Many of these children would be quietly married off, or kept at home by their parents, who think that this is the best way to protect them from being exposed to men.

In many of such cases, we would meet the family and plead with them to allow their daughters to continue schooling with us. 

From time to time, we would meet with the community and educate them on the importance of education and give them the confidence that the child is progressing and doing well. It is not an easy task.

This is why we are calling for the government to allow refugees to enroll in regular schools. This will solve many of the problems faced by the community. 

These students will also have a bright future ahead as they would have valid education certificates that could allow them to work in regular jobs or even continue higher education.

By banning child marriage and making it compulsory for all children to attend school, this sort of problem could also be solved. In a bigger context, this would indirectly help to end the poverty cycle not only for the Rohingya community, but other communities in Malaysia which are going through similar problems as well.

There will be no end to sufferings if children are allowed to get married in this country. The problems will continue for generations to come.

The daily should have been sensitive in its reporting. The story is in bad taste and does not in any way help the family or the wider discussion of ending child marriage in Malaysia.

Note: The writer is a social activist who filed a police report over the impending wedding reported by the daily. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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