As the Senate debate focuses on child marriage, topmost priority must be given to the child, who is the key factor in this entire issue. I appeal to all involved in this debate to do the conscionable thing and place the child first among all considerations.
Once again SWAHA, a major Hindu body of Trinidad, reiterates its position of adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years. I wish to re-establish the fact that the issue at hand is not a religious matter as far as Hinduism is concerned. Even though the rituals carried out in the marriage ceremony identify with Hinduism, there are no Hindu scriptural injunctions that dictate the age at which an individual must marry. Child marriage evolved from the culture and traditions of an Indian landscape centuries ago. This was embraced and found support there and then but it is irrelevant to Trinidad today, where our young girls are indicating their choices in no uncertain terms. A clear example is the excellence in academia displayed in the last few years by our nation’s girls. They have been topping the scholarship charts, inclusive of recent President Scholarship winners, Shivrani Prabhudial and Priya Maharaj. Could they have scaled such heights if married at 14 years of age? The signs are clear! Our young girls wish to be qualified. Please allow them the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.
I wish to re-emphasize the severe handicaps that are created through child marriage. Such a condition is a barrier to a young girl’s educational, physical and mental health. It is denial of the child’s fundamental rights and strangles any hope of empowerment. It opens the child to vulnerability to abuse of all forms, to psychological scarring as well as economic dependency. Not to mention the negative impact on infant health. I ask, is this the type of development and future we want for our citizens?
The answer to this question is evident from the responses posted on social media where our young and old have made it clear that marriage at such an early age is a violation to the youth’s rights and a threat to their future. Their claim is that child marriage is a definite deterrent to natural maturity.
As the debate on this burning issue of child marriage continues, it is my sincere hope that the child’s welfare is not compromised for anyone’s vested interest. The child should not be a pawn in the game of political affiliates. It is my opinion that any rational thinking decision-maker will have the child at heart and allow him/her normal growth and development. In the interest of our children and our future, it is necessary that good sense prevails and that full support be given to adjusting the marriage age to eighteen years.
Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad