Petition urges: Stop child marriage
CHILDREN growing up in the world today face many unavoidable obstacles, but they are further handicapped by being forced into marriage at a young age, says president of the Hindu Women's Organisation (HWO), Henny Charran.
"I think we can all agree that everyone is entitled to basic rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind, such as age, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
"A child is not mentally or emotionally equipped to give such consent, and therefore all child marriage is forced marriage. In particular, the marriage of a child to an adult constitutes a serious case of child exploitation and abuse," she said.
Charran's statement forms part of the HWO's petition to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago to raise the marriage age to 18, keeping 16 as a safety net.
The petition, which can be found, and signed, at www.change.org states: "We recognise the wisdom in raising the age of marriage to 18, an important fact is that age 16 is the age of sexual consent. Therefore, age 16 should remain a safety net for marriage with consent of the marriage partners, parents/guardians."
Furthermore, it states that the negative impact of early marriage on the personal and social development of girls is well documented and recognised by global organisations working in the field of women's rights and gender equality.
The petition also highlights the fact that girls, who receive an education, are less likely to enter an early marriage and suffer consequent negative impact on their development.
"Early marriage reduces girls' opportunities for education; and whereas, the injurious health consequences of early marriage should be taken into consideration, such as: Exposure to serious health risks such as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and increased risk of HIV/AIDS," it reads.
Brenda Gopeesingh, vice president of the organisation, said after months of the collaborative efforts with their members, Charran, Chaguanas Mayor, Orlando Nagessar, secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association, Dr Visham Bhimul, and some funding from the Ministry of Gender, Youth & Child Development, the HWO mounted its petition to change the Marriage Act of Trinidad & Tobago Chapter 45 and are hoping people can see the benefit in signing it.
"Our advocacy began with the publication and circulation of 850 booklets entitled 'Hinduism—an Overview and Rejecting Violence against Women' which were funded by UN Women Caribbean as part of our activities for the 16 Days of Activism 2011," she said.
Gopeesingh added that the first discussion about the topic engaged panelists from the Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Orissa faiths.
Their representatives were Ann-Marie Sirju, Anusha Ragbir, Rose Mohammed and Angela Brown who presented a paper prepared by Iya Lode Sango Wummi. The Moderator was Senator Lyndira Oudit.
"In our second public discussion, Dr Vidya Maharaj and Dr Mark Robinson explored the medical consequences of early marriage and early pregnancies. Gayatri Pargass, Human Rights Lawyer addressed the legal aspect and Sarah Nabbie, research assistant at UWI dealt with the psychological implications," she said.