End child marriage campaigners want restrictions on sexual taboo to be eased

Campaigners in Tonga who wanted to end child marriage said they want the kingdom’s taboo on speaking freely about sex to be eased.

Tonga’s Ministry of Justice and the Talitha Project launched a campaign to end child marriage last month.

The ‘Let Girls be Girls!’ campaign calls for repealing sections of the law that permit children to marry before the age of 18 – as early as age 15 – if they have parental permission.

The call comes as the Ministry of Justice is consulting on amendments to marriage laws, including raising the marriage age.

Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua of Talitha project referred to the Tongan cultural respect known as faka’apa’apa implying it has restricted children from talking openly to their parents when they were sexually abused. She said this is one of the things that leads parents to support childhood marriages.

She said some child marriages in Tonga had occurred after under age girls had been abused.

Siamomua told Tonga Broadcasting News services embarrassment over such cases meant they were not reported.

She said they wanted girls to grow up and get the education that would give them more opportunities in life.

There had been more than 100 marriages of children in Tonga in the past two years.

“Girls have often been compelled by parents to marry, sometimes because of teenage pregnancy, or simply because they were seen with boy,” Human Rights Watch online reported.

“Locals have also documented cases where girls were forced to marry their rapists”.

Ending child marriage was the right thing to do.

“Research consistently shows that child marriage is deeply harmful to children,” the website said.

“When girls marry young, they often have early pregnancies which put them and their babies at risk of serious health consequences, including death.”

Married girls had a heightened risk of violence, including marital rape, domestic violence, and emotional abuse.

They often left school permanently, denying them the right to education and increasing chances that they and their children would live in poverty.

She said there was a global movement to end child marriage.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 includes a commitment for all countries to end child marriage by 2030.

Countries such as Malawi and Nepal were moving ahead with anti-child marriage legislative efforts and many other countries were developing, national action plans to achieve the goal.

According to the United Nations Population Fund Child marriage is a human rights violation.

In developing countries, one in every three girls is married before reaching 18. One in nine is married under age 15.

The main points

  • Campaigners in Tonga who wanted to end child marriage said they want the kingdom’s taboo on speaking freely about sex to be eased.
  • Tonga’s Ministry of Justice and the Talitha Project launched a campaign to end child marriage last month.
  • The ‘Let Girls be Girls!’ campaign calls for repealing sections of the law that permit children to marry before the age of 18 – as early as age 15 – if they have parental permission.
  • The call comes as the Ministry of Justice is consulting on amendments to marriage laws, including raising the marriage age.

For more information

Child marriage in Tonga “shocking,” Lord Tuʻiʻāfitu says, questions power of Tongan law

“I won’t support any law to allow child marriage”, says PM Pōhiva

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