As a woman, I sympathise with Hannah Yeoh who was called in for questioning regarding her statement on Twitter. Is the government now a government that cannot be criticised and reprimanded? Is asking questions to make sure the rights of children are protected considered an offence?
We all need to look back at why Hannah Yeoh questioned Siti Zailah’s appointment as deputy minister of women, family and community. This is, in fact, the result of a statement issued by Siti Zailah herself in a July 2017 parliamentary debate in which she defended a minor’s marriage.
Back in January, former minister of women, family and community, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail launched the National Strategy Plan in handling the causes of child marriage. The move was made in order to overcome the causes of child marriage at its roots.
The plan consisted of 7 objectives, 17 strategies and 58 programs and actions to handle child marriage causes in the next 5 years, or until the year 2025.
We must understand that child marriage is not a religious or race issue. If we were to study the statistics of underage marriages for the year 2017, a total of 1,845 underage minors have entered into a marriage with an adult. Based on the statistics, a total of 968 children were non-Muslim while 877 of them were Muslim. This shows that the issue of child marriage is a national issue and not just specific to the Muslim community.
The strategy plan drafted by the Pakatan Harapan(PH) before this have successfully identified several causes of the marriage of minors in Malaysia such as poverty, a lack of access to education, social stigma that views child marriage as a solution rather than a problem and non-strict laws which allows for this practice to happen. Is it wrong for a woman and a mother such as Hannah to raise this question in order to defend the rights of children to have proper education and experience the joy of childhood?
Remember, children are not brides.
Media Statement by Johor DAP Wanita Publicity Secretary, Marina Ibrahim on 17 June 2020