Saturday, July 22, 2017

‘3,404 child brides in last two decades’


in the senate
 
This country has recorded over 3,000 child brides in the last 20 years, according to Attorney Gene­ral Faris Al-Rawi.
He said the Government’s policy seeks to draw a line and make the new legal age of marriage to be 18 as he pointed out in this country, one has to be 18 to be able to purchase a SIM card, but can get married as a child.
The AG was speaking at the Senate sitting yesterday, at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, where he piloted le­gislation to end child marriages.
The bill is entitled “An Act to amend the Marriage Act, Chap. 45:01, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, Chap. 45:02, the Hindu Marriage Act, Chap. 45:03, the Orisa Marriage Act, Chap. 45:04 and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act, Chap. 45:51”.
Al-Rawi provided updated statistics from the Registrar General for the period 1996 to 2016, which showed there were 3,478 child marriages during this time, and of this figure, a mere 74 were males under the age of 18.
He said there were 1,156 civil— meaning Christian or non-Christi­an
—marriages, 526 Muslim and 1,796 Hindu child marriages.
This means there was a total of 3,404 child brides in the past two decades, with an average of 170 young girls being married off every year.
“A whopping total of 74 were male, that gives you a percentage distribution 97.85 per cent of child marriages are in the female bracket and 2.15 per cent are in the male bracket,” said Al-Rawi.
743 abortions 

He said an analysis was done on the age gaps between the child brides and their grooms and 11-year-olds up to 16-year-olds were married off to men in the age brackets of close to 36, 46 and 52 years of age.
“We have a phenomenon where the law, as it exists in Trinidad and Tobago, permits somebody who is more than two or three times the age of the child, of the girl, to be married to a man two and three times her age,” he said, adding these facts were taken from marriage certificates.
He dispelled the argument that child marriages take place in rural areas as he noted the greatest number of these marriages come from urban areas.
The AG provided figures to show that not only does this country have a record of thousands of child brides but also thousands of children making children.
He said an analysis of the live birth figures was done by looking at the birth certificates.
In terms of live birth figures ta­ken from all the public hospitals, ­for the period 1999 to 2015, there were 15,231 births to children, he said.
In the period 2011 to 2015, he said the total number of teenage abortions recorded in the public health sector was 743, and these included abortions for girls in the 13 to 16 age bracket.
Describing the figures as “start­ling”, Al-Rawi said for 2016 alone, there were over 100 girls between the age of 11 and 16 who were pregnant.
18 age of maturity 

The Health Ministry, he said, confirmed the number of children between 11 and 16 who became pregnant last year was 168.
The number of children between 11 and 16 who had abortions in 2016 were 12 while 159 gave live births in 2016.
“We have been turning a blind eye to an issue for a very long time,” said Al-Rawi, noting this issue was not an easy one, given the main arguments which were on religious grounds.
He said Trinidad and Tobago finds itself as one of the eight countries in the world where the age to marry is as young as 12.
We are in the company of other
countries such as Iraq where a child can be married at nine, Saudi Arabia at ten, Sudan at ten, Colombia and Uruguay at 12.
Al-Rawi said one cannot vote until the age of 18, cannot drive until 17, so there is recognition of these ages as an age of maturity, but not so with respect to marriage.
He said Government’s position is that the legal age to get married is 18, and he noted there are amendments to offences and also beefed up offences with respect to the Marriage Act.
Punishment 

The bill provides for a new offence where there is conviction on indictment for solemnising the marriage of persons under the age of 18 years, so marriage officers will be penalised if he/she conducts a marriage on a minor.
Al-Rawi said there have also been updates to ensure the registers are free from tampering and forgery, and the offences were also updated as it relates to unlicensed marriage officers.
He said the breach of all these have now gone to conviction on indictment to fines of $50,000 and seven years’ imprisonment or in one instant, $40,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
The time to also get married has also been adjusted to facilitate later times, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., instead of 6 p.m.