FOMO really is the worst when you’re a kid raising a kid. Still, it is the current reality of an estimated 70 million girls across the world – and the potential reality for another 150 million girls who will marry by 2030.
And if you’re wondering what it’s like in Malaysia: about 4 to 5 children were married EVERY DAY to an adult in 2017 – that’s a total of 1,845 child marriages in a year! And BT DUBS, not all these marriages were built to last. About 2,500 child marriages ended in divorce between 2011 to 2016 alone.
Being a kid is supposed to be the best time of our lives. It’s when we get to do things like play kejar-kejar with our BFFs, run in the rain, chase after the Paddlepop jingle down the street – all that good stuff you simply can’t get away with as an adult without people shooting you weird looks. All in all, childhood is 10/10 the best time to be alive.
“A little girl is still a child. She cannot be a mother or a bride.” Join us and sing a-long – Say NO to child marriage! #EndChildMarriage #100days4children #GirlsMatter (Video courtesy UNICEF Benin) pic.twitter.com/kof6Pbu5Sk
— UNICEF Malaysia (@myUNICEF) July 1, 2018
Unfortunately, for girls who are married off before they turn 18, childhood is very, very different. Forget #FOMO because our friends bojio and we couldn’t go to a certain music festival in Genting Highlands – child brides miss out on all the fun stuff, on top of some very important stuff, too.
What very important stuff? Glad you asked! Here’s a list of Very Important Things Child Brides Should Have But Don’t Because They Have Become Child Brides:
- SPM and Beyond – While their friends are going to school and furthering their education, child brides are made to pick up babies instead of books.
- Opportunities to make $$$$$ – Child brides have fewer chances to make a living for themselves, which makes it harder for them to leave marriages.
- Better Health – Child brides are at greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV; and unwanted pregnancies.
- People They Can Turn To – Child brides rarely have people they can open up to or seek help from, which really limits their access to support.
- A Safe Space – All children have a right to protection, but child brides become easy targets for abuse and domestic violence.
But of course, that’s not all. Not nearly! This list is like the most basic summary of things child brides miss out on.
Because, on top of all of this, they’re also missing out on all the amazing things they could’ve achieved. Beyonce wasn’t clowning when she posed the question, “Who run the world?”. Girls everywhere have shown time and time again that they are unstoppable.
However, the legal systems in Malaysia don’t reflect much of this. Take a look. Be warned: We’re Getting Lawyery.
Basically, there are loopholes in the laws that allow kids to be married off before they’re 18. Under the right circumstances, and with permission from the right people, even an 11-year-old can be married.
You may have also noticed that the legal age for girls to be married is lower than that for boys in quite a few cases. It pretty blatantly discriminates against girls lah. Why? Dunno. What I do know is that the law, if anything, should reflect equality … but the way things are now, memang tak ah.
Especially when now more than ever, girls all over the world are breaking barriers and making a stand for themselves. In fact, the International Day of the Girl (which falls on every 11th of October, FYI) is a celebration of all the movements that have been spurred on by, with, and for girls.
We’ve shown that we are fearless when it comes to tackling issues close to us and we’re making impact left, right and centre.
But if we don’t get child marriage under control, we will lose ourselves generations of artists, poets, activists, creators and leaders, all because society and tradition said we were better off as wives. *cue eye roll of the century*
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Please let kids be kids, not child brides. Don’t rob their childhood. #EndChildMarriage 🌸 – Fahmi Reza @kuasasiswa Each child bride is an individual tragedy. And every marriage with a child a horror and a shame. There is no acceptable excuse or reason for destroying a child's life. There is no greater "sin". Gambar by Fahmi Reza #fahmireza #childhood #foreverychild #ikutcarakita #100days4children #girlsmatter #childmarriage #endviolence #children4change
So what can we do?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from International Day of The Girl, it’s that our voices are really our most powerful tool. Speaking up against child marriage, whether at school or with friends and family, is more important than we give ourselves credit for.
Being informed about our sexual reproductive health and rights also gives us more power over what happens to our bodies (kalau nak info selanjutnya, reach out to FRHAM, WAO and SIS, sis). Unplanned pregnancies often result in child marriage, so get your friends to stay safe and informed too.
We can also use our voice to empower girls! Support girls! Fight boys when they try to put us down simply for being girls! CLAP BACK AND CALL 👏 THEIR 👏 BIAS 👏 OUT 👏.
Thankfully, we’re not alone in all this – the people in power are also taking notice, especially our PM Dr M and our first woman DPM Dr. Wan Azizah.
Last year, Dr M asked all states in Malaysia to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 across the board (yay!) and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development is putting in the work to end child marriage in Malaysia, while making sure these laws are upheld.
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“@chedetofficial has sent a very clear and strong signal to end child marriage. UNICEF commends his leadership to protect boys and girls against this harmful practice. We hope all states will move quickly to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for all children, without exceptions.” – Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia. 😍😍😍 . . Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has issued a directive ordering all state governments in Malaysia to raise the legal minimum marriage age to 18 years for Muslims and non-Muslims, revealed a Penang state executive councillor (exco) said today. 😍🙌🏽 . We 💗💗💗 this Brilliant news today in the media! . . #endchildmarriage #pelajarbukanpengantin #girlsnotbrides #letkidsbekids #tunmahathir #MalaysiaBaru #ENDviolence #foreverychild #childrights
So we may be the generation of Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok and dank memes, but we’re also the generation that can stop the cycle of child marriage from repeating itself. 25 million child marriages were prevented in the last decade but c’mon lah, 25 mil is not enough.
For every day that we don’t end child marriage, another girl misses out on her opportunity to change the world. And if that isn’t peak FOMO, I don’t even know what is.
#EndChildMarriage 🙅♀ #ENDviolence 🙅♀ #girlpower