Colombo Telegraph

The Need To Legalize ‘Underage Marriages’

By Muhammed Fazl

Muhammed Fazl

“When a woman has scholarly inclinations, there is usually something wrong with her sexuality” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The last time I attended a panel discussion on ‘Constitutional Reforms’ where feminist movements were seen ‘moving mountains’ to change divine laws governing Muslim marriages and inheritance among other changes to the Constitution, I couldn’t help but notice such organizations having a sizeable number of staff consisting of members of the LGBTQ community, divorcees, single women etc. While I am of the opinion that what we do define who we are, I sincerely hope my contribution towards addressing a key part of the Muslim Personal Law (MPL) would be taken into serious consideration by all concerned.

As usual, Islam and Muslims of Sri Lanka have come under attack once again. This time, the enemies and their collaborators seem to have adopted a more genteel approach in infringing the rights of Muslims in order to suppress the influence the faith of peace wields. It is said that ‘when India sneezes, Sri Lanka catches a cold’. Coincidence it is or a well-orchestrated stratagem by a devious third party to ‘address’ the issue of MPL simultaneously in both countries, I do not know. But ring an alarm bell it does in the minds of the local Muslim community when attempts are being made to single out the Islamic faith and its adherents by invalidating centuries-old and divine laws while more virulent and present-and-clear dangers to society are ignored.

Times have changed for worse no doubt. fourteen  years or eighteen, if a girl thinks it is her right and engages in a sexual relationship with the opposite sex, there is no further argument there…., ‘cos she is ready for marriage as well! The online activist that I am, to sum it all up, six months ago, I wrote the following on my personal Facebook page and that which was taken down since then by its administrators for reasons best known to them. Extracts of that post are as follows:-

“If a girl has reached the age of puberty, and if she is ready or willing to be married (and not coaxed into), no force on earth should have the power to act against her. End of the day, it is her life and her body. Feminist movements and rights organizations can scream as loud as they wish, but laws of nature does not pay no heed to their hypocrisy.

Living in an age where parents find it ‘cool’ allowing boyfriends to ‘pop the cherries’ of their teenage daughters’ (mostly in non-Muslim families), I somehow find it very hard to digest their hypocrisy when they oppose ‘underage’ (even if matured enough) girls wanting to get married to one man and have a family, secure life etc….

While my grandmother got married when she was 13 and had 11 healthy kids, my paternal aunt too got married when she was 13 and gave birth to 8 kids. They say age is just a number…. and it is. Needless to say, there exist kids aged between 14-16 who are much smarter than 18yr olds and who would even score a lot higher should they be tested for their IQ, general knowledge, common sense and their levels of maturity.

While education is necessary, if one is to take a good look at women with loose morals aka ‘harlots of Colombo’, he/she will see that most of them are highly educated and having come from broken families or having changed hands from one man to another when in search of emotional solace or sexual gratification. At the same time, teenage girls graduated from universities in Western countries do not seem to be fairing any better either when they are seen doing the rounds in social circles of Colombo in skimpy clothing and failing miserably in their quest for contentment, happiness and inner peace of life, and eliciting nothing but pity on themselves..

While the debate for changes to MPL rages on, one thing that should not be up for debate is the fact that no girl should be forced to or forced not to marry a man, not even by her own parents! Minimum age restrictions may limit sexual exploitation of the vulnerable to a certain extent, but in the same vein, wouldn’t it be a slap on the face of law when parents allow their teenage daughters to freely intermingle with boys of their age or older and often resulting in sexual relationships abortions and pregnancies? The hypocrisy of the ‘modern society’ is such that teenage daughters having half a dozen boyfriends (sexual partners) before they even turn 20 is considered ‘cool’ and acceptable, as against ‘hell breaking lose’ when a decent young girl under 18 years of age wants to be married and be happy. And it is not as if the so-called ‘champions of women’ causes would go out of the way to uplift the standard of living of a less fortunate young girl…, let alone help financially to sustain her or the family she belongs to. While I am no medical doctor, respect as well we must medical opinions should it go against marrying early. But then again, it would be exceptional cases”.

While I do not dispute the fact that Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) of 1951 needs to be rewritten, as long as it does not contravene the teachings of Islam, I believe it should be alright to accommodate requirements of the modern society that we live in. Having examined few clauses of the existing act, I would appreciate should knowledgeable individuals respond to the following:-

1 – While it is disappointing seeing local feminists and/or representatives in NGOs of Crusader countries misconstruing on public media the notion of girls not having reached the age of 18 to be as 12-year olds as if it is a rule, reflect does it not their true intentions, one of them being to demean Islamic laws and Muslims in general?

2 – As per the demands of feminist rights movements, if reaching 18 years of age is what it takes to be considered as ‘matured and ready for marriage’, would a girl who is only 17 years and 360 days old be considered ‘immature and NOT ready for marriage’? And if so, wouldn’t that be an insult to the intelligence of girls who are much younger than 18, but who could possibly be a lot more matured, educated and intelligent than some 25-year olds of the same sex? I mean who set reaching 18 years of age as the standard for one to be considered as ‘mature’ in the first place?

3 – If 13 years of secular schooling is what it takes for a girl to be considered as someone with a ‘sound mind’, would that be an indication of being educated enough to take correct decisions and make righteous judgements in life? And if so, wouldn’t that criteria make a mockery of this ‘13 years of schooling’, education etc. when the so-called ‘educated women’ end up being promiscuous or lead adulterous lives even when married in addition to having other anti-social habits in their latter years of their lives?

4 – Based on isolated incidents. If ‘underage marriages’ result in sexual and physical abuse of children as claimed by feminist rights movements hell-bent on ‘reforming’ MPL, would marrying once they reach the ‘age of consent’ help them find the perfect life, married or otherwise for certain? To throw a challenge, if these feminist movements can list X number of cases of abuse resulting from ‘underage marriages’, I probably could prepare a bigger list (many times the X number) of women who got married long after the suggested 18-year threshold and who now literally live a ‘life of hell’!

The point I try making here is, instead of burying our heads in the sand highlighting the age factor alone, the focus should be on the abuse itself. And to educate the ignorant, statistics also reveal that, countries championing causes in favor of minimum age laws having the highest divorce rates of more than 50%…. not to mention a considerable percentage from the other half having adulterous relationships with co-workers and friends while remaining ‘married’.

5 – As claimed by feminist rights movements, if physical and sexual abuse of minors are a problem in countries where no minimum-age requirement laws for marriages are strictly implemented, does it not the following report prove them feminists organizations wrong and expose their devious and manipulating ways? And ironic is it not when countries that champion laws governing minimum age requirements happens to be among top on the list of countries with the highest cases of physical and sexual abuse of women and teenage girls as against statistics of Islamic countries where girls marry young?

6 – Contradict themselves do they not when the Zionist/Christian West falsely claims to be liberating women from an ‘oppressive’ culture/religion, suppresses rights of Muslims for exercising the right of their women for choosing their attire when in public? In the same vein, attempts of the so-called ‘reformist’ feminist rights movements here in Sri Lanka the same when they force their agenda on an unsuspecting community quite content with their religion and their traditions?

I am indeed impressed by the ability of the West to instill ‘values’ that determine the wrongs and rights in the minds of the ‘Westernized’ but ignorant Muslim population of Sri Lanka. If modern day fathers cannot fathom the fact their daughters will be deflowered at some stage in their teenage years, they might as well restrict their daughters from having any kind of contacts with the opposite sex. If a daughter who is just 14 years old is considered as a mere ‘baby’ to parents, does she ceases to be such when she turns 18? I guess it does only when we allow elements in the West and their ‘foot soldiers’ here at home to ‘brainwash’ us into thinking in those lines. Times have changed and so have attitudes towards life and sex in the minds of the young. If marrying an ‘underage’ girl raises the question of possible sexual abuse, let us also criminalize the act of sex between teenagers and jail half of International school-going kids in Colombo for engaging in such!

The body and life of a girl/woman is hers alone. Eighteen or not, girls should be able to decide on whom to marry and when to marry. And if one has not reached the age of 18, to strike a compromise, her case should be addressed by a respectable judge on an individual basis and on its own merit. When it comes to matters of love, life and happiness, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches should be discouraged. As much as we the right-thinking, lobbyists and policy makers are against forced and child marriages, we should also be careful enough not to enforce ourselves and prevent a holy matrimony from taking place. As long as the bride has attained the age of sexual maturity and if she is mentally and physically strong enough to embark on a long journey, what right should an unrelated third party have in preventing the same girl from entering into a union that provides her with love, sustenance and security among others? And what if the couple intending to get married are ‘soul mates’ and meant for each other? Not to mention the economic situation of the girl and her family…. Or should we be promoting the prevailing promiscuous culture amongst teens in the West right here in Sri Lanka by delaying their chances for marriage? And while at it, making it a lot easier for teenage girls to experience and enjoy sex with as many partners before the thought of marriage even cross their minds?

I mean are we so blind to realities in life that we fail to acknowledge the fact that promiscuity and debauchery at early stages in life contributing to break down of marriages and loss of family values often resulting in increased levels of crime as an addition?

Let’s admit it…. Muslims and Islam are the real targets here for this ‘reforms’ to MPL. It is my firm belief that the Zionist/Crusader West is on an ‘unholy’ mission to castigate the Prophet of Islam in a negative light and to make him look a ‘pedophile’ in the eyes of millions of unsuspecting masses for his marriage to his very young wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her). The fact is, as it was customary those days to marry young, the Prophet of Islam consummated the marriage ONLY AFTER his young bride attained age.  While the following link enlightens us of the ‘age of consent’ in both past and present times, I believe the world needs to stop the use of words such as ‘Pedophilia’ and ‘Child Marriages’ irresponsibly, and to stop using them as weapons to fulfil their ulterior motives when they are blind themselves to realities in life and lack the resolve to move ahead.

There is never a day where we don’t read about incidents of teachers having sex with their young students in Western countries…. Not to mention it being considered an extreme rare case not being able to find a 14-year old virgin among school-going kids in those same countries. In this context, why are we making a mountain out of a molehill here? And if sex with multiple partners is good and an acceptable norm when 13-17 year olds engage in it, WHY NOT marriage with just one man while being provided with a sense of security, love and all good things that come along with it?

If the welfare of children in general is of utmost importance to those striving to change MPL, why not start with Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka where I believe 99% of them tiny ‘monks’ who are no more than 6 years of age and who are sexually abused on a daily basis by seniors wearing robes of a monk and claiming to be monks? It is not right for those little boys to be ‘caged’ with unrelated male strangers who apparently and outwardly claim to live a life of celibacy…. and devoid of women! I mean, how hard is it for one to figure out what really goes behind those walls? Little boys being ‘spiritual’ and gaining knowledge about Buddha’s teachings when they should be having a normal childhood and an upbringing? I mean is this a bad joke that nobody takes notice no more? Surely, instead of being stuck with isolated cases of abuse resulting from ‘child marriages’ numbering not more than a dozen, shouldn’t the government and children’s rights movements be cracking down hard on temples and cracking down NOW?

To allay any misconceptions about the title of this article, legalizing ‘underage’ marriages is NOT necessarily to enforce the practice as a norm, but to allow girls in certain situations to exercise their right to a decent life should that option be in their best interests. And in the event the government goes ahead with making changes before having proper consultations with representatives of all concerned Muslim and Islamic religious organizations, I fear the inevitability of extremist forces amongst the Muslim population declaring a semi-war on the government.

It is 15:35 in Colombo and even though the old saying – “after 12, it is lunch time” comes to my mind, just as I delay experiencing all that is beautiful till the times of sunset when calmness reigns at around 18 hundred hours, I would expect the same patience or more for all stakeholders to exercise before they rush into taking drastic decisions that one day our future generations could hold us accountable for.

*Editor’s note: The Colombo Telegraph does not hold any or all of the views of the writer of this essay. Prior to publication the editorial board pondered on the contents of the essay. We felt the essay was representative of the mindset of many Muslim males. We believe that this essay by an English speaker would be reflective of a deep rooted regression among the community.

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