What would you do when you have to say ‘yes’ to an arranged married when you are 14, the age where you’re supposed to start making memories in high school with friends? I couldn’t imagine myself getting married at such a tender age because when I was in my 14, I was struggling hard with my studies. My parents were very strict because education is more important than anything. I was very lucky to have a strict parents because some do not have the opportunity to enjoy being a student that they have to end up into an arranged marriage.
As in Malaysia, the minimum age for marriage of a non-Muslim minors is eighteen (18) years old, but those who are getting married at sixteen (16) years of age are required to get consent from parents or guardian by filling in a form of a written consent to the marriage for one who has not completed 21 years of age (source). Things can be quite complicated because these young people cannot achieve the fullest extent of their potentials.
A marriage which is not based on love can be risky because it deals with high commitment, responsibility, and emotion. What would you feel when you have to leave your family and friend at then age of 14 because you need to focus on your new family? In fact, getting married at a very young age possess high risk to the physical health when they are getting conceive too early, and die of maternal health complications during delivery.
Studies show that girls who give birth before the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than girls in their 20s. Where girls survive childbirth, they are at increased risk of pregnancy-related complications and injuries such as obstetric fistula, a medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina. Sixty-five per cent of all cases of fistula occur in girls under the age of 18.
Some arranged marriages can endure or last for a long period but what if bad things happen after your marriage? For instance, you lost your husband after a few years of getting married. To make thing worst, he left you with three (3) daughters all on your own. Poverty strikes in, and you have to watch your youngest kid die due to starvation.
The hardships are obvious. Getting married at 14 means you have to leave your education behind and your potential just stunted there, and rendered as uneducated and unskilled. You have to do labour work in the industry which does not give enough for you and your kids. When your husband leave you with 3 kids to fend, the burden becomes heavy especially when you have to let one of your kids die due to malnutrition, and you need to stay alive so the other kids would be able to survive.
What would you do if you’re in such situation? Dealing everything alone without the support from others can be damaging. It’s a total emotion-charged. One can still survive if there’s education to bring someone’s out from the poverty but without skills, there’s nothing one can do to get themselves out from the dungeon.
This is not a man-made story. It was a true story of Shiuli, a young widow in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her story is one of the many voiceless anguished women in Asia. You can read Shiuli’s story here and how she finds hope amidst of her great loss.
What would it be like to enter an arranged marriage at 14 and be suddenly widowed by 21, like Shiuli?