Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill, 2016, Al-Rawi said data received from the Registrar General for the period 1999-2015 has shown an alarming number of child births, which may or may not be connected to the issue of child marriage.
He said the figures connected to child births were examined in relation to the argument that child marriages can avoid the “stigma of pregnancy which some say can lead to suicide”.
“We looked at the pregnancy issue…children giving birth, recorded on a birth certificate…the figure we came up with was actually quite startling.”
“The figure in terms of live births taken across all of the hospitals in the period 1999 to 2015, inclusive, is 15,231 live births to children.”
Regarding abortions, he said from 2011-2015 there were 743 reported abortions conducted in public hospitals across the country. This figure includes abortions done by 13-to-16-year-old girls.
He added that child pregnancy continues to be a concern as there were 168 recorded child pregnancies in 2016.
“If I were to look just at the 2016 figures alone, the number of children between 11 and 16 years (of age), who became pregnant for the 2016 period was 168 children.”
In addition, 12 children between ages 11 and 16 had abortions in 2016.
He said based on date recorded from 1996-2016, there was a total of 3,478 child marriages - of these there were 1,156 civil marriages (Christian/non-Christian marriages that are not Muslim/Hindu/Orisha), 526 Muslim marriages and 1,796 Hindu marriages.
Additionally, he said that of those marriages, 3,404 (97.85 percent) of those were girls, while a mere 74 (2.156 percent) involved boys.
He also mentioned a huge disparity in the ages of females and males within child marriages.
“12-year-olds were married, 13-year-olds were married, 15, 16, 17, and they were married in the hundreds. When we compared it to the marriage age of the male, we saw age brackets of 36, 46, and 52-year-olds.”
“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 girl, to be married to a man two or three times in age.”
“That’s the law in Trinidad and Tobago and the facts are taken from the marriage certificates.”
He said from 1997 to date, the rural areas actually account for the least number of child marriages while the urban areas account for the greatest number.
Islamic scholar and temporary senator, Maulana Dr Waffie Mohammed, is against the Bill, saying that according to Islam, girls are considered as being of marriageable age once they reach puberty.