First Lady disgusted with child marriages
“…we need to rigidly enforce existing laws”

Kaieteur News
January 24, 2007

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First lady Varshnie Jagdeo has expressed disgust with recent instances of child marriage and sexual relationships.

During an interview with Kaieteur News, Mrs. Jagdeo was emphatic in stating that every child has a right to protection, and equally important, to be a child.

She said that this matter needs to be addressed through education, in addition to the rigid enforcement of existing legislation, before things spiral out of control.

The First Lady pointed out that although there are laws which facilitate the involvement of the relevant authorities - social services and the police - lack of implementation in most cases, negates any definitive intent.

In her role as chairperson of the National Commission for Rights of a Child (NCRC) Mrs. Jagdeo is an active advocate of tougher penalties for persons who choose to violate children or condone child abuse. And child marriage remains a thorny subject.

“Before consenting to marriage, parents should understand the advantages of sending children to school and ensuring that they are properly educated. At 16, or younger, you are way too young to even think about marriage… as a person you are still evolving. “Marriage at any age is a big commitment; people much older have difficulties with their marriage, much less a child who can't even decide what to eat on a daily basis.”

She is adamant that parents are obligated to their children and by condoning their marriage to persons who are effectively molesting them, they are neglecting those responsibilities.

The First Lady added that to achieve the goals of the NCRC requires a concerted effort, stressing that all stakeholders must play their part.

With respect to recent developments related to child marriage, the NCRC plans to conduct several workshops which will target parenting as it pertains to rights, responsibilities and child abuse.

The forum is also geared towards addressing the issue of alternatives to corporal punishment. (Gary Eleazer)