A month in and the 11-year-old girl is still married


A month in and the 11-year-old girl is still married
By Zan Azlee

Children rely on adults for a lot of things. I should know. I have two of them and they can be pretty helpless without my wife and I being there. They need to be fed, clothed, bathed, educated, loved and protected.

It’s a lot of hard work but once you decide to be a parent and bring children into the world, you can’t run away from the responsibilities that come with it. Like it or not, you will be stuck with it and you will have to follow through or you will be a horrible human being.

I would have to say that this is similar to being the government. If you have worked for decades and put in so much effort to finally win a general election to replace a six-decade-long ruling party, you would have to follow through with the responsibilities that come with it.

Being a government, the people rely on you to administer and govern the country well and protect the people as best as they can. That is the responsibility of a government and it doesn’t matter if the people are adults or children. In fact, it would be especially so if it were children.

If an 11-year-old girl who is still going to school and playing with friends is suddenly given off to be married to a 41-year-old man, the responsibility of the government would be to intervene and take action. There are no two ways about it.

In this day and age, it is ridiculous to think that it is okay for a child to be married. Think about it very carefully. A girl who is 11 is married to a man who is 41. If you see nothing wrong in that sentence, you are one screwed up individual.

What the government needs to do is immediately separate the child from the man and since her family was actually a part of the decision, she should be separated from her family too because obviously, her family isn’t thinking of her welfare.

It is more than a month now since the news of the child marriage came to light. Until today, the little girl is still married and still with her family. Statement after statement have been made from the side of the government but nothing has come out of it.

The statements mainly refer to how it is a delicate situation and that it needs to be threaded carefully because it would be a precedent for future cases. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (photo), who is also minister of Women, Family and Community Development, reiterated that a few days ago.

I think this is quite a load of hogwash. Firstly, the matter is truly delicate. It is so delicate that immediate intervention is required to protect this particular child from being abused. If an investigation needs to be done, the child must be taken away for protection first.

With all the statements being made without any action, time is running out for the little girl. Her life will slowly waste away and by the time something is done, it would be too late for her. So the situation is delicate indeed – for the little girl who is desperate for protection.

Secondly, Harapan has been the opposition for so long and they have been vocal on so many issues that they felt the BN government were handling wrong. The issue of child marriage has been one of those issues.

In those many decades of being the opposition and keeping the government in check, did they now familiarise themselves with the law and the machinery? Shouldn’t they now be able to straightaway address these issues now that they are the administration?

Harapan had so many suggestions and actions they wanted the then government to take and implement when they were the opposition. So it should be easy. Just take those suggestions and actions and just implement them. It is theirs anyway.

If you come into government now and are just deciding what to do, then you must have just been blowing hot air all this while as the opposition. You had shadow cabinets and legal advisors who came up with all kinds of great alternative administration steps before this. Have they all disappeared?

There needs to be a political will to change such laws that allow child marriages. So show us that will. We know that it is still early days, but you have provided so much hope and faith for Malaysians. Now we expect and rely on you to step up and take on that responsibility.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!

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