Siddiq Nasir took a jab at Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain Father Joseph Harris, who last week described child marriages as legalised statutory rape. Nasir said that the Archbishop has a very myopic and partial view of the issue. In fact, Nasir who is an Islamic scholar, said that the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church 1083 (1) states, “A man before he has completed his sixteenth year of age, and a woman before she has completed her fourteenth year of age, cannot enter into a valid marriage.” By virtue of that Canon Law, Nasir said, Christianity supports marriage of a girl once she has reached the age of 14. It is therefore passing strange that Harris who heads the Catholic church in Trinidad and Tobago, he explained, could view the marriage of a 14-year-old girl, “as legalised statutory rape”. The Muslim cleric bemoaned sexual activity among young teenagers before marriage, but he warned that it had nothing to do with the Marriage Act under the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago, the Muslim Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act or the Orisha Marriage Act.
Nasir said that if promiscuity is rampant, it is an illness of a society that must tackle the problems that lead to such acts, such as incest, abortion, sex before marriage and rape. He asked, “Maxi taxi drivers are enticing young girls into sexual activity.
Will changing the legal age of marriage do anything to save these young girls?” He said, “We must protect our children – however not only physically, but morally and spiritually as well. Many efforts of many well-meaning persons to guard children against everything that is detrimental to them, are proving ineffective and even counter-productive. Our children are being bombarded by a deluge of influences explicitly, implicitly and subliminally, and unless a holistic approach is adopted, we will continue to fail in our efforts to protect them. A partial, very myopic approach is the present crusade to change the age of marriage so that children (in the definition of the Children Act, human beings under the age of eighteen) are protected from getting married.” Nasir argued that not allowing young girls to marry, but allowing them to have sex outside of marriage among themselves, “is quite amazing”. He said that it is more than passing strange that the Head of the Catholic Church in Trinidad, Archbishop Harris, could categorise the marriage of a fourteen year old girl, which the Canon Law says is valid, as “ legalised statutory rape” (unless he was misquoted).
Nasir went on to say that in the state of New York, a male or a female age fourteen, can marry with parental and judicial consent and that a male or female aged sixteen, can marry with parental consent. This, he added, was according to the Laws of New York, Domestic Relations, Article 3, Section 15, Subsections 1, 2, and 3, and Section 15-a). Nasir further stated that in the State of New Hampshire, Canada, a male age 14 to 17, and a female age thirteen to 17, can marry with parental and judicial consent.
He further went on to state that the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 states: “No person domiciled in Scotland may marry before he attains the age of 16.” Nasir concluded that a marriage solemnised in Scotland between persons either of whom is under the age of 16 or that in England and Wales, males and females aged sixteen can get married with parental consent.”