Just in case you’re not keeping up with the local movie industry, recently there’s a local movie adapted from a Malay language novel titled “Suami Aku Ustaz” (My Husband is a Religious Teacher). The story is about a 17-year-old girl who is married to her religious teacher in her secondary school in an arranged marriage by her parents.
Paedophilia has been hitting the headlines lately, especially after the controversial case of Nur Fitri, a 23-year-old Malaysian student of Imperial College London was found possessing extreme child porn on his computer. When he was arrested at his home, he was found with a life-sized mannequin of a young boy.
Nur Fitri is not married to a younger girl, or boy; but obviously his obsession with child pornography proves the point.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), paedophilia is defined as regularly having sexually arousing fantasies, desires, or behaviours involving sexual acts with a child. In the movie, a religious teacher marries an underaged girl. As a result, the movie has provoked scores of complaints from people for its controversial paedophilic depiction of child marriage.
Response From A Sex Educator
A sex educator named June Low posted her opinion towards the movie after viewing it.
During an interview between June and The Malay Mail, she was asked if her review may be viewed as criticism towards Islam. She replied, “It’s not about religion; it’s about child marriages which is very worrying. It’s got nothing to do with religion.”
Response from Sisters In Islam (SIS)
Ratna Osman, the executive director of SIS mentioned that the Muslim women’s advocacy group is consistently opposed to marriages involving minors.
“Our stand has always been that we are against child marriages. The current law allows for Muslims girls to marry at 16 and even younger with the permission of a Shariah judge,” she told Malay Mail Online yesterday evening.
Response from Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Sumitra Visvanathan, executive director of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), said child marriages remain legal in Malaysia despite its possible consequences.
“Child marriage has been shown to be harmful towards the girl child who is wedded — not least because it increases the risk of domestic violence.”
“Yet, in Malaysia, it is still legal for a Muslim girl as young as 16 to be married. Applications can also be made so that girls and boys not legally old enough can be married. Each year, more than a thousand such applications are approved,” she said in a written response to Malay Mail Online yesterday evening.
“Any attempt to romanticise child marriage is disgraceful. It is also against the international safeguards to which Malaysia subscribes, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),” she added.
Response from PKR
PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya also gave her personal comment towards the movie, saying that the movie is legalising rape.
“(Filem) Ombak Rindu halalkan rogol! Hari ini Suami Aku Ustaz halalkan kahwin bawah umur, esok apa lagi Bapaku Suamiku halalkan sumbang mahram?”
A Twitter user who is known as Izzuddinarudin uploaded an illustration of the religious teacher with his student, with caption “My husband is a paedophile”.
Movie Producer Fights Back Against Criticisms
Malay Mail reported that the production firm’s director and chairman Datuk Wan Mohd Muzri Ramli insisted that the movie doesn’t promote child marriages as the main protagonist is a teenager, not a child.
“Underage is only the definition according to customs and enactments. We accept (the definition) for harmony’s sake, but it is not a licence to block marriages at an early age,” said Wan Mohd. He continued, “There is still an avenue through the court process, where the judge will decide it all.”
Some Hard Questions For Us All
There are several questions that we need to consider when approaching the subject of child marriage and paedophilia. Firstly, seeing as the legal age of marriage in Malaysia for Muslims is 16, can we still classify them as children? If not, then why is there still fuss about the character in the movie being a paedophile since he isn’t doing anything illegal?
If a 17-year-old girl is considered as an adult and she feels that she is ready to enter into a relationship with an older man, are we going to criticise that? If we consider the man in the movie to be a paedophile, then what about other well known figures such as Hugh Hefner who is 89 years old and is married to a 29-year-old woman? A 29-year-old isn’t a child but does the huge age gap constitute the idea of paedophilia?
Do we really understand what paedophilia is all about or are we jumping to conclusions just because there is a number involved that’s below 18? Whichever it is, education and awareness from the right parties is crucial so that we can make a more informed judgement when using the sensitive ‘P’ word.