The Hindu leader was commenting on statements made last Friday in the Senate by Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Verna St Rose-Greaves, who hinted to an end to marriages for underage girls.
“She has no authority to pronounce that, none whatsoever. If, by accident, a 14-year-old becomes pregnant, then by consent of her parents she can be married. Is it better to build a place for young, unwed mothers than to marry underage girls?” Maharaj asked.
According to the Muslim and Hindu religions girls as early as 12 to 14- years-old can be married with the consent of their parents.
During her contribution to the 2011/2012 Budget debate in the Senate, St Rose-Greaves, said her ministry would soon be having consultation with a view to amending the Marriages Act of Trinidad and Tobago
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Maharaj said the decision to increase the age from 14 years is against Hindu Marriages Act of 1945.
“That decision, first of all, is definitely for a community to decide. Very few people under 14 years get married in Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, within the last few years, there wasn’t any. It is there as a safety net,” suggested Maharaj.
Islamic scholar Maulana Siddiq Nasir yesterday said he is awaiting the start of the consultation to hear what comes out of the debate.
Nasir called for consistency when the consultation begins saying in certain states in the United States (US), 12-year-old girls can have abortions without their parents’ knowledge.
“In the United States, a 12-year-old is competent enough to have an abortion without the parents being informed. Yet it is illegal for them to get married. We would like to see consistency here when this consultation begins,” Nasir said.
Under Islamic law, once a girl reaches puberty she can get married, Nasir said. According to this country’s Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance of the 1960s , a person can be married at age 12, Nasir told Newsday.
He again made reference to the US saying when an 18-year-old male has sexual intercourse with a girl younger than him, it is considered statutory rape.
“So then what is it when two underage persons have sex? Sex between underage persons is quite common (in the US). When they have the consultation here we would see what takes place,” Nasir added.