If you haven’t yet heard, there has been a movement this year (2016) to amend the Marriage Act of TnT. Why?
Because it is legal in 2016 in Trinidad and Tobago, under the Muslim Marriage Act, for a girl child of 12yrs to be married with parental consent .
It is not only the Muslim Marriage Act that may make you question what year it is, there are three other Acts that allow parents to give consent for their children under 18yrs to be married. YES in 2016. YES in sweet TnT. While the Muslim Marriage Act takes the cake with the lowest minimum age for girls at 12yrs and boys at 16yrs, it is not alone. The Hindu Marriage Act allows girls at 14yrs and boys at 18yrs to be married, the Orisha Marriage Act allows girls at 16yrs and boys at 18yrs to be married and the Civil (read as Christian) Marriage Act does not stipulate a minimum age once there is parental consent.
Did you spot the similarity? Did you notice that the minimum age for girls is lower than the minimum age for boys across the board? This is where feminists begin to use words like patriarchy, sexism and point to the systematic oppression of women and girls… and this is where non-feminists begin to roll their eyes and tune out. But stay with me for a second or two more… What reason would the lawmakers or people in government have to create a law that has different requirements for girls and boys? This is the law we are talking about. The highest order of the land.
Why would they (lawmakers) agree to do this? The best answer I can come up with is that they (lawmakers) consciously or unconsciously believed that it is ok to allow someone to make decisions about a girl’s life but not a boy’s life. [If you come up with any other answers please comment below!]
This for me this is where it starts; not by the laws but by the practice. By the idea that some people in TnT have that it is ok to speak on behalf of or for a girl or woman and where it is ok for someone else make decisions about a girl or woman’s life. By having laws like these Marriage Acts affirming the idea that girls (and eventually women) can be spoken for just adds more ‘justification’ for the practice but it was not from where the practices came nor will it be from where the practices will end.
Don’t get me wrong: We definitely do need to amend all the Marriage Acts so that the minimum age to marry is 18yrs for both male and females but we also need to understand more fully the intricacies of Child Marriage in TnT.
When I talk about Child Marriage I mean both the recorded ‘lawful’ marriages of children under 18 AND the unrecorded ‘illegal’ common-law living arrangements of children under 18 that occur in our sweet TnT. Even though the current conversation on child marriages are based on the the ‘legal’ recorded marriages, I think it is important to point out that both types have the same outcomes of denying a child their right to having a childhood and denying them the ability to make informed life-long decisions on their own terms. Both are problematic to children, both are complex and I suspect that none will be fixed by changing laws because face it… we in TnT aren’t so good at enforcing laws.
So why did I bring it up then? Well because it is important. It is important to discuss as many different aspects of this issue as possible so that a real change in the practice around how we protect and care for our children can be uncovered. So that we can examine the philosophy we, as a society, REALLY hold around young people, youth, children, and babies. To remove the frills of many of our activities centered on empowering and supporting youth and reveal the reality that we as a society jus cah be bothered – that children must be seen and not heard and do as they are told (more so girl children than boy children). A society that seeks to groom children into understanding that the only way to lead is through control and coercion and then gets upset when teenagers use the same methods to navigate their lives. It is important to dig deeper into this discussion on Child Marriages so that we can touch its underbelly – our beliefs on the value and role that children have in our society. I believe that when we begin examining this, in addition to changing the laws, we begin the process of changing the practice of how we care for and protect our children across every aspect of life, which may then lead us to seriously charting a new future for TnT.
Please find link to original post here.
I, Isabel Dennis, am a Trinbagonian student of life who spends my time exploring different ways to support young people to learn and live meaningful lives. I design spaces that encourage people to explore the things that matter the most to them through conversations and play. I love to play as much as I hate to adult and I have been told that I become magical when I interact with children.