|Keep child marriage law |
MIRANDA LA ROSE Thursday, January 12 2017
DR MAULANA Waffie Mohammed, a temporary United National Congress (UNC) Senator, is advising Government not to change the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance Chapter 45.02 because Muslims believe the marriageable age of a female begins with the onset of puberty.
According to Mohammed, puberty begins when a girl starts to menstruate.
Mohammed, the first Opposition Senator to contribute to debate in the Senate yesterday on a bill to amend the Civil, Muslim, Hindu and Orisa marriage acts, and the Matrimonial and Property Act, in order to make the age of marriage 18 years across the board in TT, said: “The Holy Koran informs us about it. ‘Marry women of your choice. Make the trials of the orphans easy until they reach the age of marriage.’ The age of marriage is defined in Islamic religion as the age when puberty starts.” The age of puberty varies according to climatic conditions, he said.
No change has been made to the Holy Koran and since Prophet Mohammed came to this Earth, Mohammed said, “from then to now the lifestyle of the Muslim has not changed.” While the study of sociology shows changes in the lifestyles of people, Mohammed said, “not in the case of Islam, because God tells us in the Holy Koran ‘the habit of God does not change’.” The Council of Islamic Scholars, which he chairs, he said, supports the law as it is. The current law allows for girls to be married from 12 years.
The council does not agree with, and believes that the criminalising of the solemnising of marriage under 18 and the fine of $50,000 and seven years imprisonment for the offence was “oppressive” to Muslims.
The proposed Bill, Mohammed said, does not say which of the two phases - the contract and the consummation - in the Muslim marriage was offensive. He said that while the contract can be done at any time during childhood, including infancy, he said, the marriage can only be consummated after the individual has reached puberty.
He condemned the Romeo Clause in the Children’s Act which decriminalises sexual activity between children saying that it was responsible for the problems among secondary school children.
He questioned what the Attorney General was doing about it. He said that while statistics show that from 1987 to 2007 there were only 16 Muslims marriages, he said, it was still advisable to retain the law as it is so as not exclude isolated cases.
Meanwhile, at the start of his contribution, Independent Senator Ian Roach said he was forced to look at the definition of puberty which was defined as that, “period during which adolescent reaches sexual maturity and becomes capable of reproduction.” Limiting the definition of puberty to someone who is not fully developed for the institution of marriage with all its responsibilities including sexual intercourse, which for a child is slave labour, Roach said, means “we are missing the point.”