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Senate to debate Marriage Bill

Tuesday, January 10 2017

THE issue of child marriages and other issues related to marriage will be in the parliamentary spotlight when Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi opens debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill, 2016 in the Senate when it holds its first sitting for the year from 1.30 pm on Wednesday at Tower D of the Port-of- Spain International Waterfront Centre.

The objective of the bill is to amend the Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, Hindu Marriage Act; Orisa Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act.

The bill requires a three-fifths majority for passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the case of the Senate, the Government will need to get four votes from either the Opposition or Independent benches to add to its 15 votes to pass the legislation. In the House, 25 votes are needed to pass the bill. The Government has 23 MPs in the House and will therefore need two Opposition MPs to support the bill.

The legislation changes the heading of “consent to marriage” in the current Marriage Act to the, “age at which a person may contract marriage.” At Section 23 (1) of the bill, it states, “The age at which a person is capable of contracting a marriage is 18 years.” Section 23 (2) adds that a marriage shall not be solemnised by a Marriage Office or District Registrar, “if either of the parties to the marriage is under 18 years of age.”

In a new Section 41A, any person who willingly makes any false declaration or signs or marks any false application, notice of certificate, required by the Act for the purpose of any marriage, commits an offence. Such a person, under this proposed section, is liable on conviction to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for seven years. The bill further states at Section 41B (1), “A person who knowingly and willingly solemnises the marriage of a person under 18 years of age, commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for seven years.”

Section 41B (2) adds that any person convicted under Section 41B (1) shall cease to be eligible to hold a licence or to solemnise any marriage. The Registrar-General shall publish a notice in the Gazette of persons who are no longer entitled to hold a licence

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