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Trinidad Government moves to end child marriage as records show pre-teens marrying middle-aged men

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday, January 12, 2017 – The Trinidad and Tobago Government is making moves to divorce itself from the decades-old practice of authorising child marriages.

Yesterday, lawmakers began debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions Marriage Bill 2016 that seeks to raise the age of marriage to 18. It will render null and void, the Hindu, Muslim and Orisha Marriage Acts, which permit marriages from the ages of 14, 12, and 16, respectively in the case of girls.

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi told the Senate the country recorded close to 3,500 child marriages between 1999 and 2016, with marriage certificates showing that some girls as young as 11 and 12 were married to men as old as 36, 42, and 56.

He lamented that the twin-island republic was one of only eight countries in the world where a child could be married as young as 12.

Once passed, the bill will criminalize the marriage of people under 18 by a marriage officer, who would be punished with a $50,000 fine along with a seven-year prison sentence.

According to the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, the Attorney General strengthened his case for the practice to be abandoned by presenting data showing a high number of child pregnancies.

Rubbishing suggestions from some religious groups that early marriages protected young girls from sexual morality and unwanted pregnancy, Al Rawi revealed that between 1999 and 2015, hospital records showed that 15,231 girls gave birth.

Last year alone, Al Rawi highlighted, 168 children between the ages of 11 and 16 became pregnant.

The Muslim community has raised objections to the legislation now before the Parliament, charging that it is oppressive.

Speaking during yesterday’s debate, temporary Opposition Senator Dr Maulana Mohammed pointed that the Qur’an , the holy book of Muslims, stipulates that a man can marry the woman of his choice, once the female has entered puberty.

“Muslims believe that the marriage age of females begins with puberty, that is what the Holy Qur’an says and, as such, it is not an offence if a girl is allowed to be married after attaining that age,” he said.

(Caribbean 360)

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