The Bishop of Trinidad & Tobago has urged his country’s parliament to reform the nation’s marriage laws, raising the age of legal marriage to 18.
The Bishop of Trinidad & Tobago has urged his country’s parliament to reform the nation’s marriage laws, raising the age of legal marriage to 18. The Rt. Rev. Claude Berkley (pictured) joined Catholic and Protestant leaders in a meeting with the islands’ Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi saying the current law that permits marriage at the age of 12. At their 1 June meeting, Mr. Al-Rawi reported the incidence of child marriages had risen over the past 20 years, with 548 registered marriages of children between the ages of 12 and 16, occurring from 2006 to 2016, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi said yesterday. In 1997 there was only one recorded under 16 marriage, while 192 were recorded in 2011. Hindus accounted for 328 marriages of the child marriages, Muslims 103 and other faiths or no faiths, 117. The attorney general declined to say whether there was an actual rise in the number of child marriages, of if the government was doing a better job at recording marriages. On 12 May 2016 Bishop Berkley released a statement saying: “The Anglican Church would not perform marriages of this age group and does not support the practice. We would support efforts to adjust the age of consent upwards.” His statement followed comments by the Catholic Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Msgr. Joseph Harris that child marriage was “legalised statutory rape.”The leader of Trinidad’s Muslim community Mufti Waseem Khan of the Darul Uloom of TT, said that while Muslims favored in principle raising the age of consent to 18, allowances should be made for those under 18 to be wed with parental and judicial permission. The Trinidad and Tobago government signaled it will likely change the common law marriage act. A statement released by Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s office said “early childhood marriage terminates many of the elements associated with a healthy and enjoyable childhood and creates a cycle of poverty by curtailing the educational opportunities of the children involved. It is the government’s view that children are entitled to the fullest benefits of childhood and to the enjoyment of their rights as children and the Government is committed to the protection and fulfillment of these rights. In this regard, there is a critical need for the age of marriage to be aligned to the age of consent for sexual conduct,” the statement said.