Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Child Marriage

It's a strange reality that most people have some sort of "standard" which they'd perceive as ideal when it comes to life partners. Of course these standards may differ substantially between people. For example, when I was a boy, I thought that the husband should be taller than the wife; he should also be at least slightly older than her. I'm not sure why I had that standard, but I have since changed my mind by now.

An auntie explained to me that the first time you meet a girl, you get to know her character first. Her general behavior; perspective about life and the world. Perhaps her hobbies etc. If she's the right one for you, does it really matter if you find out later that she is a year or two older than you? I had to reluctantly say no; if she is the one, then I suppose a year or two older doesn't really matter. I'm not sure if she is a few inches taller than I am though. But I have known a fair number of couples of which the wives are taller than the husbands.

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that everybody has a "standard" for compatibility between spouses. Just that some people are unwilling to admit it. I have come to a stage in my life where I can accept almost everything, including if the wife is 10 or even 20 years older than the husband.

Having said that, however, I'm having trouble accepting the idea of a man in his forties marrying an 11-year-old girl as reported here, even if the girl's parents have consented to the marriage. I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she's still just a child as far as I'm concerned.

A few questions came to my mind when I read the news. What does the man see in the 11-year-old girl that qualifies her as a suitable wife material? Was he inspired by Michael Douglas? What exactly are his expectations in a wife? Whatever those expectations are, apparently they were not met in full by the earlier 2 wives.

And then what were the girl's parents thinking when they agreed to the marriage? I don't quite buy the excuse that the girl will only stay with the husband when she's 16. If that were the case, then marry her when she's 16, not when she's 11. And even at 16, that is way too young to marry a man 30 years older than her. The point is that from the age of 11 to 16, the girl has a lot more time to think and realise what she's getting herself into, and may well come to her senses about the whole thing long before she's 16.

Love is a strange thing, it can neither be explained nor scientifically analysed. But I refuse to believe that a girl of 11 is old enough to truly know the meaning of love. There is still a lot of growing up to do, physically as well as intellectually.

Incidentally, I was out on an evening run with my running buddy, Dr Peter recently, and the subject of my daughter came up. I said that I'm an open-minded person, and if it is destined that my daughter falls in love with a garbage collector or the likes, I will try very hard to talk her out of it. For I'm just being a parent, and it's natural for me to give the best to my daughter. But if my daughter is adamant in the end, then I will let her marry a man of her choice anyway. 

Whether or not I'm happy with her choice, that is not so important, because what really matters is her happiness, not mine. If she is happy, then I will be happy for her. Nevertheless, she will have to wait till she is an adult—not when she's still a teenager—before I let her have that right to decide. I consider allowing a child of 11 to make a reckless decision that would have life-long repercussions as irresponsible on the part of the parents. I hope that the Malaysian authority can somehow nullify the marriage, and save the girl from doing something that she'd regret for the rest of her life.