Child marriage not a common practice among Rohingya community

10 Feb 2019 / 20:22 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Child marriage is not a common practice among the Rohingya community, the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom) said in expressing sadness over the foiled marriage that involved an 11-year-old girl.

“This should never happen as she should be in school and not become a housewife at this age,“ its president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani said in a statement today.

“Usually we marry off our daughters when they reach the age of 16 and above. It is very heart breaking to see our young girls getting married at 11 as she could end up facing some health risks getting pregnant at this age.

“We must recognise at this age, she should be in school, playing with her fellow friends and enjoying her child life in the best way.”

Zafar said the foiled marriage raised some issues. Firstly, child marriages happen because there is no law governing the marriage and divorce of Rohingya community, he said.

“The Rohingya Islamic issues are not under the jurisdiction of the Syariah law of Malaysia,“ he said. “The Rohingya community depends on the Rohingya’s Ulama or Ustaz (religious leader) in the matter of marriage but not divorce.

“There is no proper procedure for our marriage and divorce. There is no marriage course and health screening for Rohingya couples who want to get married. There is no record of marriage and divorce of Rohingya community. All of these leads to more problems in the marriage as most Rohingya couples marry at young age with limited knowledge on family and parenting.”

He added that their religious leaders do not receive permission from Malaysian authorities such as the Islamic Religious Office to conduct marriages for Rohingya couples.

“The Ulama or Ustaz is paid between RM100 to RM200 to conduct a Rohingya marriage. An additional payment between RM200 and RM250 is made in order to certify the marriage. Marriage certificate can be issued by any Rohingya groups, regardless of whether they witnessed the marriage ceremony or not.

Being undocumented makes it harder for the Rohingyas to obtain refugee status, that they often end up resorting to use fake UNHCR cards to get married.

“This becomes problematic when they have children as their children cannot get the birth certificate from the Registration Department which (can) lead to other problems,” he said.

He added that the absence of formal education system for the Rohingya community has pushed Rohingya children, especially girls, into child marriage or forced marriage.

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