How many more?

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How many more deaths of children are we waiting before we change the law?

I could not believe my ears listening to the radio this morning announcing that a pregnant married 13 year old girl died.

According to the Civil Code, the minimum age of marriage in Mauritius is 18 years old. But minors aged 16 or more can marry with the consent of his/her father and mother.

How can a 13 year old girl get married? How come that the person who celebrated the wedding did not know that he was going against the law? How come did the parents on both sides agreed for a 13 year old girl to get married? How come the husband was not sued for having sexual intercourse with a minor? How come that the Doctor who was treating a pregnant 13 year old girl not report the case to the police?

There are so many questions that need to be answered but I have a specific one  to the Speaker of the Mauritian Legislative Assembly, Maya Hanoomanjee, who has always claimed that she is for gender equality and is against any form of violence against women.

On 3rd June 2016 the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) in which Mauritius forms part adopted the Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage. At the 39th Plenary Assembly meeting in Swaziland, SADC-PF adopted the Model Law and asked that member states, which includes Mauritius to harmonise their national laws to prevent child marriages.  But this has never happened in Mauritius.

The Model Law has been developed to protect our children, to protect the 13 year old pregnant girl who lost his life this morning, 21st  June 2018, to protect all the girls who get married before the age of 18.

Why has this SADC PF Model Law which is supported by the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) not been talked about in Mauritius, Madam Speaker?

So many lives could have been saved if the Model Law was put into practice. This little 13 year old girl would not have lost her life.

Mauritius is the only SADC country that has not signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and this because of the clause on child marriage.

There is an urgent need to include child marriage in the Children’s Bill that is being discussed with Stakeholders at the moment. The objective of the Bill is after all to protect the rights of children. Talking about the Bill, Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus, Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare said, “We are all joined in this fight to stop violence and abuse against children.”  But child marriage is an extreme form of violence Madam Minister. We hope that you will personally see to it that elimination of child marriage forms part of the Bill. Children cannot be deprived of the future they deserve. Girls under the age of 18 must be at school and enjoy their childhood and not get pregnant and lose their lives. 

The Parliamentary Gender Caucus which falls under the Speaker commissioned a study on the “Sociological Profiling of Perpetrators of Domestic Violence” in Mauritius. There is not a single word in the report on child marriage. And yet child marriage is an extreme form of violence. Any forms of gender based violence must be condemned but when it comes to children, to our babies, it is even worse. These are girls who cannot defend themselves. They are raped because they do not what is happening to them.  By not changing the law on child marriage the authorities are making Mauritius a barbaric society.

Loga Virahsawmy

21st June 2018

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