When I wrote “Thirteen” a few days ago, I was toying with some customs: giving a dozen roses to express romantic feeling, and (one I discovered then) thirteen roses to express friendship. My motivation, though was the trending topic of “child bride” in T&T- again a new discovery for me. I, somehow assumed that this was a thing of the past. But when the head of our Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), in response to international calls for its ban, responded “it has been working” and “…no need to change…” I cringed.
Citing religious practices of various groups, he noted ages twelve, fourteen and sixteen respectively as the age of consent or sexual maturity. In defence of the argument that this practice is likely to result in teenage pregnancy and health-related issues, the IRO head, suggested that not because they marry at twelve, it means that they would get pregnant at twelve.
I am totally flabbergasted by the fact that in the twenty-first century, in a non-oppressive land, such out-dated, morally unjust practices could be condoned on the premise of religious freedom. For all other purposes, sex with a minor under fourteen is deemed “statutory rape” and would be prosecuted, if brought to the attention of authorities.
In recent times, we increased the legal age of consent from sixteen to eighteen. Yet, we are saying that once the parents consent, girls can marry from as early as twelve, despite the fact that the chosen (by parents) husband is usually many years older. This poem, “Twelve” is a plea in support of the child.
Etched in constitution.