Child Marriage Written by Amy Yasmin Roslan
Child marriage is any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years of age (UNICEF, 2016). According to UNICEF (2016), 700 million women alive today were married as children, and more than 1 out of 3 were married before 15. Girls who are involved in child marriage before they turned 18 are most likely to experience abuse and even die due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. They also have limited opportunities to finish their formal education and let alone, to pursue a degree. According to Girls Not Brides (n.d.), the reasons for child marriage may differ from one community to another, but poverty, lack of education, cultural practices, and insecurity are the primary drivers. Very recently, the situation of children in need of special protection, notably girls vulnerable to sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS, suggests that early marriage is being used as a strategy to protect girls from sexual exposure or to pass the economic burden for their care to others (Innocenti Research Centre, 2001). According to Innocenti Research Centre (2001), a recent UNICEF study shows that parents are anxious about girls becoming pregnant outside marriage; thus, any opportunities will be seized.
The Star stand on child marriage is that it is always wrong regardless of the reasons. The Star’s R.AGE team who are made up of young journalists has worked with many parties who are dealing with child marriages. An article published in the Columnists section by The Star Says titled ‘Child Marriage is Always Wrong’ on 9th April 2017. The Star Says is a team from The Star that provided viewpoints after analysing the issues and developments of the day. The Star Says suggested that when an underage girl became pregnant because of her underage boyfriend, both families of the girl and the boy could have worked together to raise the child without making them abandoning their studies or even get support from the social services. Foster care could also be an option, however unpalatable, for financially disadvantaged families who can’t afford to care for the child (The Star Says, 2017).
The main agenda of The Star that can be observed from the headlines of the news is that children should be protected from child marriage. The Star supports individuals who share the same values. Although Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is from Democratic Action Party (DAP), The Star emphasises his opinion regarding child marriage.
The recent incident of Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya remarks on child marriages was caught on video and published in BNBBCTV, a YouTube account of The Council of Barisan Nasional MPs Malaysia. The Star released the video footage of the debate with a caption ‘Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya explained his views on child marriage and rape’. The video published did not do any justification to Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya because it did not show every part of his speech. The day after the incident, The Star published another article titled, “Video of Shabudin’s remarks on child marriage goes viral”. The report stated that Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim defended Shabudin by saying Shabudin has been “very supportive” of the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 as he had presided over cases of sexual crimes against children. The Star quoted unquote the words very supportive in its reporting.
Al Jazeera approaches the child marriage issue using from the law viewpoints. The organisation did not state if it is wrong or right, but the articles published always revolved around the negative impacts of child marriages and actions that can be taken by the government to forbid more of these cases from occurring. Also, Al Jazeera always includes the background for this issue such as poverty and social norm to provide better understanding to the readers
Al Jazeera main agenda that can be observed from the reporting is that the organisation wants the governments of the countries involved in child marriage to take more proactive actions. Articles published on child marriage are always categorised under the Human Section. The organisation believes that children have the right to decide their marriage, spouse and future.
News published by Al Jazeera is always accompanied by sources. The article titled, ‘Rights group: Nepal failing to stop child marriage’ included the Agencies as its source. Meanwhile, the news titled ‘Turkey: Motion ‘protecting child marriage’ draws debate’ included Al Jazeera News And News Agencies as its source. Al Jazeera also went to gain an insight of the reality of child marriage by personally interviewing the victim. In an article titled, ‘Nepal’s challenge of ending child marriage’, the journalist Subina Shrestha managed to interview Pari Devi Mandal, a 17-years-old mother of two. The reporter quoted the exact words uttered by the victim and even stated the location of the interview. The journalist also managed to interview a human right activist, Manohar Kumar Pokhrel also quoted his exact words on the issue of child marriage in Nepal.