Early marriage my right, says 14-year-old Malaysian girl

Sunday, December 12, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - A 14-year old Malaysian girl, who married a 23-year-old man, has asserted that early marriage was her individual decision and right.

Marriage is the right of the individual and I am well-prepared to take up the duties of a wife, said Siti Maryam Mahmood, the teenager fondly called Maya by her family.

I have thought about the responsibilities and the consequences of marrying at a young age.

At the same time, I have my mother to guide me on my marriage and my wifely duties, she told Mingguan mStar, the weekly Malay news magazine of The Star newspaper Sunday.

The official age for a girl to attain adulthood is 18.

Her marriage reception was attended by a minister who said the marriage was valid under Islamic law.

But Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that the Shariah courts decision to allow Mayas marriage is not a government-endorsed policy.

Marriage is a serious issue. It is worrying when cases like this become a culture. The risks and impacts are severe to those who get married at a young age, she said, stating that the family institution should not be taken lightly.

Womens right groups, bar association and some NGOs have opposed marriage of minors and have called for change in the federal law of the Muslim majority nation.

Maya got to know her husband, 23-year-old Abdul Manan Othman, early this year when he was giving tuitions on religion to her two younger siblings.

She said both their families were open-minded about the marriage although it had sparked a controversy.

The couple married Oct 22 but caught public attention only when they took part in a wedding reception organised by the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department last week.

Maya said she was not forced into the marriage.

He proposed to me and both our families agreed … that is the important thing, she said, refuting suggestions that girls who marry young are denied the opportunity to learn and develop to their full potential because they are forced to be adults through marriage.

Asked about raising children, Maya - a student at a religious secondary school here - said she and her husband had agreed that she would focus first on completing her studies.

Abdul Manan said that he will ensure his young wife completes her secondary education.

He added that their marriage was valid under Islamic law and they had not done anything that is haram (illicit) or sinful.

It is not like some youths who get babies out of wedlock and then dump the infants, The Star quoted him as saying.

Filed under: Religion

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