A heated controversial practice, i.e. child marriage, is always on a constant debate among Malaysian. Every time a child marriage case is reported, people generally would criticize the act and demand a change. Is it really a good practice that we should all agreed upon or otherwise? Upon hearing the topic, people will have this general idea on the issue; children, usually girls rather than boys are forced to be married at a young age, notably below 18 years old. What is Child Marriage? According to a 2018 study by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, child marriage, as stated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a marriage of either one or both of the partners are below the age of 18 years old. While for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children\u2019s Fund (UNICEF), child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18 years old. Even without any registration or ceremony, living together like a married couple falls under the same definition. Photo credit: therakyatpost Child Marriage in Malaysia Here in Malaysia, we have a slightly different view of these definitions. Child marriage in Malaysia can be defined as any marriage that is carried out between children of age 18 and below, imposed by the enactment of Islamic and civil laws. By Islamic laws, the minimum age for girls to marry is 16 and boys, 18. However, this is subject to change under the consent of Syariah courts. Note that as of 2020, only Selangor had changed its state laws to fix the minimum marriage age for both boys and girls at 18, making it the only state that achieved a legal reform. While for girls and boys of other faith, under civil law, the minimum age to marry is 18 for both. Yet, the non-Muslim girls have it a little bit different as they can marry as early as 16 if they have the permission of the Chief Minister. Statistics of the Case in Malaysia Based on the latest report in 2020, 543 child marriages (including applications) were recorded in Malaysia last year, with Sarawak being the state with the highest reported figures. According to Syariah Judiciary Department, as reported in the NewStraitsTimes, 5,823 cases of Muslim child marriage being registered in Malaysia from the year 2013 until June 2018. Photo credit: malaymail.com While in an article written by AsiaNews.it, 2,104 girls of age between 16 to 18 got married from the year 2011 to September 2015 and it was around 10,240 child marriage application were appealed between the year 2005 until 2015. In consonance to that, based on the data reported by a study from UKM, seeing that only 10 out of 2,143 applications for child marriage were rejected from the year 2012 until 2016, we can easily conclude that child marriage in Malaysia is still much prevalent. Photo credit: indiatoday Is it Advantageous to the Bride? Looking back to the statistics, is it a really good practice as demonstrated by the remarkable number of cases? Based on the study, effects on the bride are numerous and coming from many aspects such as: 1. Psychological aspect - prone to feel isolated and depressed after marriage They are living a life which is very much different from their elder ones. A lot of things are new to them and while looking around, they will notice a huge gap between their lifestyle and to their friends, for instance. To shoulder the responsibilities as a wife, a daughter-in-law, even as young mothers and fulfilling other expectations on them as married girls from a new household, these girls have a higher probability to be depressed. This is because generally, girls around this age are still not mature enough to understand and have to bear such mental pressure. 2. They tend to be the victims of domestic violence. Compared to the older woman, girls below the age of 18 have a higher tendency to be abused by the husband. They are mentally and physically weaker and will have difficulty standing up to their husbands who are likely stronger and older. 3. Pregnancy and childbirth for girls below the age of 18 are susceptible to many complications. More importantly, child marriage has dangerous effects on girls\u2019 health. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that according to studies, girls of the age 15 to 19 bear a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. For example, premature birth. It is important to note that the consequences of underage marriage do not only impact the girls and boys but rather, the society as well. For instance, in facing the challenges of married life, girls below the age of 18 are prone to making mistakes and unable to make wise decisions. This, in turn, might result in separation and increase the divorce rate in our society. Perhaps the idea of making child marriage an option to solve baby dumping\u2019s issue due to premarital sex needs to be reevaluated as it brings no good if the girls turn out to get divorced sooner or later. Photo credit: newindianexpress What Can be Done? 1. Legal enactment of marriageable age Two years back, there was a child marriage reported in which the groom is 41 years old and the bride, 11 years old. It enraged most Malaysians and soon after that, former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad issued an order to all states to raise the legal marriageable age to 18 years old for all. Some of the states agreed and some did not. 2. National Strategy Plan in Handling The Causes of Child Marriage In January 2020, federal authorities have announced the 5 years plan which is the National Strategy Plan in Handling The Causes of Child Marriage. The plan\u2019s outline consisted of 6 factors, 7 objectives, 17 strategies and 58 programmes or actions. There are 61 agencies involved such as the NGO\u2019s and International Bodies. The target of this plan is rather extensive, not to just tackle the issue of child marriage but other social issues related to families and children as well. Other than that, to ensure its efficiency, a committee will be set up to monitor the plan. You can take a peek at kpwkm.gov.my for more detail of the plan. Without a doubt, Malaysians are still at war with this issue up to these days. Despite great oppositions from authorities and citizens, it is still a common practice exercised throughout these years. It is clear that child marriage brings more consequences than benefits based on the existing data. All in all, doesn't it seem necessary for us to struggle against this for the sake of future generations?