Muslim temporary senator supports child marriage

Temporary senator and Islamic scholar Maulana Dr Waffie Mohammed is against pending legislation which can stop child marriage in Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill, 2016, Dr Mohammed said under Islam, a girl is considered of marriageable age once she attains puberty, and Muslims must follow the directives of the holy Quran.

He said the marriage age is “insignificant” and questioned how raising the marriage age to 18 years of age could stop immorality in the country.

“It is very important for us to retain the law as it is…a girl beginning to experience her period at the age of 12 becomes qualified theologically to become married instead of causing hardships.”

“You say 18 years and they will run helter-skelter and do what they want until 18 years and some may even hide the wrongs that they did through abortion…Islam does not want that.”

“I heard the Attorney General making a statement that it’s time for change and time for this and time for that…how can the change of age and marriage impact upon all the immoral things you see going on?”

He said that if Muslims abide by the laws then the minimum age of marriage is “something very insignificant, because we fear God and want to submit to him,” he said.

He also questioned the punishments suggested in the Bill, saying it is too strict.

He referred to the two phases of Muslim marriages, namely the contract and the physical consummation of the marriage, which he says can only be attained after members have attained puberty.

“This amendment appears to be oppressive to Muslims. It has not defined which aspect of the marriage to be the offence,” he said.

“In some countries, especially in the East young boys or girls are married at a young age. The marriage takes place but the consummation does not, this is done to protect the inheritance of the child (or for various reasons) but in every case the marriage is not consummated until the child attains puberty.”

“While the Attorney General is desirous of preventing children from marrying until attaining a suitable age, he is not solving the problem of unrestricted sexual activity among our youth.”

He said a more suitable act would be to revisit the Children Act 2012, calling it the ‘Romeo Act’.

“In this act we see that boys as young at 12 years can lawfully have sex with a girl of 10 years. Not too long ago you had an act which permits free sex…it is becoming uncontrollable.”

The Children Act 2012 states that children over 12 but under 14 years; over 14 but under 16 and over 16 but under 21, are not liable if found in sexual activity with another child if they are less than two years older, not in a familial relationship or position of trust, are not of the same sex as the child and the circumstances reveal no element of coercion, threat, deception, exploitation, grooming or manipulation.

“No wonder there is a moral breakdown in the lives of the younger ones,” he said.

He added that Islam condemns sexual activity outside of marriage, calling it “outrightly wrong”.

"The answer is not to change the law but to do things that will enable people to appreciate the value and lives, honour and dignity of others, to share and care and treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi supported the Bill, citing information received from the Registrar General’s office which showed that between 1996-2016 there was a total of 3,478 child marriages - of these there were 1,156 civil (Christian/non-Christian marriages that are not Muslim/Hindu/Orisha), 526 Muslim marriages and 1,796 Hindu marriages.

Based on this, Hindu marriages amount to roughly 1/3 of the total figure (35.25 percent)

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.

Additionally, most of these marriages involved girls as young as 12 years of age, while the ages of men who married them were old as 52 years of age.

Religious groups, such as the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) are against the Bill, however other NGOs and religious organisations have expressed support for the Bill. 

 

Related: 

Archbishop Joseph Harris on child marriages: "It is legalised statutory rape"

Pentecostal Assemblies say no to child marriages

Sat Maharaj to Archbishop Harris: Mind your business

UN moves to end to child marriages

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