The Canadian High Commissioner to Port-of-Spain, G�rard Latulippe, says child marriage is a human rights issue and has provided $50,000 to the Rotary Club of Penal to assist in an awareness programme to stop child marriages in that community.Latulippe said that in an interview with the T&T Guardian at his office on Sweet Briar Road, St Clair, last week.
Child marriages were outlawed in Canada," adding the assistance was provided because "we thought that it was such an important matter (to deal with)."He said while the T&T Government has made no request for assistance, the High Commission was prepared to provide additional assistance if requested by T&T.
"We are (willing to help) because we have experience on that issue," he added.
Latulippe said it was provided via the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).He said in his country child marriage was not a faith-based issue, adding there were about 100,000 Hindus from T&T living in Toronto "and they do respect the law in Canada."
Latulippe stressed that the official conducting a child marriage is committing a crime.
"If you attend a marriage of someone younger than 16 years old, you are committing a crime and you can go to jail."
He said the Canadian Government had invested $80 million on programmes internationally to prevent child marriages via the Unicef, UNFPA and other institutions over the past years.
The T&T Government is seeking to outlaw child marriages by increasing the minimum age for marriage from 12 and 14 as obtained under the Hindu and Muslim Marriage Acts to 18 which is the legal age for sexual consent.
President of the Inter-Religious Organisation Harripersad Maharaj and Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha General Secretary Satnayaran Maharaj said the legal age should not be increased but that has found no support from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who agrees that it should be increased to 18.
Persad-Bissessar said the issue of child marriage was not a religious issue but one of human rights.Latulippe said he wanted to commend the T&T Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi for taking steps to address the issue of child marriage.