First Lady speaks out against child marriages

Monday, January 16, 2017 - 13:15

First Lady Reema Carmona is speaking out against child marriages and is calling for legislation to be put in place to protect children in this regard.

Carmona is a member of the First Ladies Meeting Group which works with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to highlight, proffer and execute solutions to issues facing teenage girls and the type of investments needed for young people in the Caribbean to fulfil their full potential.

The following is a statement issued by the Office of the President today:

"Little girls must be afforded the opportunity to grow, flourish, prosper and to realise their full potential with unstinting guidance and support from parents and the society at large. We all must be concerned about nurturing and creating distinguished, educated, healthy and happy human beings. Child Marriage is an anachronism that bears no relevance to a progressive holistic society.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear in creating internationally accepted and agreed upon benchmark practices as to how we ought to treat and empower a child. The legal age for marriage ought to be changed to the international benchmark age of 18 so as to allow girls to live healthy, fulfilling lives with the requisite educational and professional opportunities.

The International Centre for Research on Women states, “Every year, approximately 15 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18. Referred to as early, forced or child marriage — a marriage or union in which one partner is under the age of 18 —it disproportionately impacts girls.” This means that every year, 15 million girls worldwide are involuntarily thrust into a role which demands a responsibility that they are often unable and unwilling to bear. The roles of wife and eventually mother should be actualised by individuals who are mature enough to take on such responsibility.

A girl should be provided with the same opportunities as boys to go to school and pursue a career and excel in whatever field she desires. As such, in Trinidad and Tobago, appropriate legislation must be put in place and enforced to ensure that our innocent children are always protected.

Children are expected to have defining, euphoric childhood memories, to be carefree and to enjoy the simple things in life through the culture of play with other children, enjoying primary and secondary school days, unfettered. We must ensure that all girls throughout the globe are afforded similar opportunities and rights as they grow and develop to become strong, passionate, qualified and inspirational women and impacting leaders of the world.

My grandmother was a 13 year old bride and I recall that she stated that she had a dream of becoming a teacher. She never got the chance to realise her ambition to be

that teacher. My loving grandmother would have been a great teacher. Her husband fulfilled his personal ambition, she did not. She was forced to stifle her dreams and was unable to truly fulfil her personal aspirations because of her Child Marriage. I do not want this to ever happen again to an innocent child of 13 years.

We must do what is right and what is fair to the innocent child. As adults, we live in boundless hope. Why can’t we allow a 12 year old to do likewise? The human spirit needs to have that capacity to evolve and grow and Parliamentarians by their guidance through affirmative legislative action, can so help.

I agree with the firm resolve of the United Nations that Child Marriage must be a feature of the past. The desire through advocacy to correct the wrongs of the past by way of necessary legislative amendment in the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a just, compassionate and honourable fight."