Thursday October 11, 2012
More talk, more action
Rights’ activists are calling for immediate action to reduce and eventually end child marriage. Laws need to be changed, programmes need to be implemented to raise awareness of the problem and its consequences and support systems need to be put in place.
One of the reasons girls marry early is because of unplanned pregnancy, due largely to ignorance about sex.
“We have a youth bulge in our country. Currently, 27.6% of our population are aged between 0 to 14, and 20% between 15 and 24. As the large number of young people grow older, we can expect to see a significant rise in the need for comprehensive sexuality education, information and services.
“We need to address sexual and reproductive health education for our young. We should not be afraid and think that if we teach them about this, we are encouraging them to have sex. Studies have shown that age-appropriate sex education actually delays sexual debut,” says Sisters in Islam Programme Manager for Advocacy, Legal Services and Public Education Suriani Kempe.
Sexual and reproductive health education help prevent unwanted pregnancies, she adds. “We need to move away from the punitive state of mind and become more compassionate. Punishment will just drive the issue underground where it is hardest to get information, support, services and access to medical care that are critical to ensuring the well being of the girl. ,” opines Saira.
Education and awareness are integral but so is law change, says Sisters in Islam executive director Ratna Osman.
“We are against child marriage and feel strongly that it should be abolished. We want the legal age for both male and female to be18, and the absolute minimum for Muslim girls to be 16, but with strict conditions: the wali has consented to the marriage, the minor has sufficient maturity to understand the nature and responsibilities of the marriage and has not been compelled against his/her will and that the marriage will not conflict withthe best interest of all involved. The judge must also consult the respective experts to verify the the conditions cited are complied with.
“Child marriage is an unacceptable practice in this day and age.”
Girls, not brides