Child marriage now illegal in Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
Published on June 13, 2017
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Child marriage is now illegal in Trinidad and Tobago. On June 9, 2017, the country's parliament unanimously passed legislation to outlaw the practice, changing the legal marriage age to 18.
Prior to this amendment of the Marriage Act, some members of the Hindu and Muslim religious communities engaged in the practice, and there was great public outcry in May 2016 when Harrypersad Maharaj, the leader of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), a group that brings together representatives from the country's diverse religious groups, said that the state should not interfere because “age did not determine maturity”.
This, despite the fact that Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which defines minors as “every human being below the age of 18”. UN statistics for the period 2002-2012 in Trinidad and Tobago show that the percentage of children who were married by age 15 was 1.8 percent and by 18, 8.1 percent. In 2011, the country's Central Statistical Office confirmed that more than 8,400 girls and 1,300 boys under 19 were married between 1997-2007.
Online petitions and social media agitation seeking to get child marriage laws off the books were swift and well supported, and no doubt aided this end result. However, there were hiccups. One Hindu leader, for instance, had no qualms about telling child marriage critics to “mind [their] own damn business”. Such religious opposition made what would ordinarily have been a straightforward issue a little more fraught and at one point, there was doubt as to whether the opposition would even support the bill.
Mahogany Coconut Comment
We have always maintained that all abuse and victimisation of our region's children must come to an immediate end. We consider child marriage to be a vicious form of child abuse and we therefore welcome the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago government to make this practice illegal. We will continue to support all policies that protect our children
Well done T and T.
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