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Cuffie chides UNC and religious groups: Defending child marriages is like defending slavery!

Minister of Public Administration and Communications, Maxie Cuffie, has likened the support of child marriages to the defence of slavery and suggested that the current Marriages Act, which permits minors to be married under Hindu, Muslim or Baptist rites, leads to a culture of rape and violence against women.

Cuffie, who is the MP for La Horquetta/Talparo, made his comments during debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill in Parliament on Friday 3 March 2017. Excerpts from his presentation were forwarded to the media by his Ministry under the heading:

Legislation that allows women to be objectified leads to a culture of rape; marriage bill creates culture of respect.”

Photo: A child bride and her husband in Africa. (Copyright Worldvision.org)
Photo: A child bride and her husband in Africa.
(Copyright Worldvision.org)

The following is the full statement from the Ministry:

The Miscellaneous Provisions (Marriage) Bill, 2016 is important to Trinidad and Tobago because it sets the tone and influences how society treats women and young people.

“For me this bill is not about young boys and young girls, it’s about creating a culture that respects our young people and respects young women. When we have legislation that allows women to be objectified, it leads to a culture where rape is prevalent, where violence against women is prevalent…” said the Minister of Public Administration and Communications, the Honourable Maxie Cuffie.

He was at the time contributing to the debate on the Bill in Parliament on Friday 3 March 2017.

The Minister said while he respects the work that has been done by religious bodies, theirs is a misguided view and “…on this issue they are wrong, and they’re as wrong as the people who stood up to defend slavery, they’re as wrong as the people who were against giving women the right to vote, they’re as wrong as the people who were against universal adult suffrage and those who said the world is flat.”

Photo: Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj. (Courtesy Indo Caribbean World)
Photo: Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj.
(Courtesy Indo Caribbean World)

He reminded the Parliament that some of the most far-reaching and landmark pieces of legislation were objected to by religious bodies.

“During the time of slavery, there were people who were arguing against the abolition of slavery on the grounds that God wanted things that way to protect African people. In the 1920’s there were religious people arguing women should not have the right to vote because things will fall apart.

“In fact, some people in Saudi Arabia still believe that things will fall apart if women are given the right to drive. And throughout history you’ve seen some of the greatest advances, in terms of society, being objected to, by religious persons.”

The bill proposes a minimum marriage age of 18 within Trinidad and Tobago but the Parliamentary Opposition has voiced concerns about some aspects of it. Minister Cuffie said it is untenable for the Opposition to pretend they are supporting the marriage age at 18, yet add caveats to their support.

“I support this legislation…to assist the young people of this country, to protect children and to do all that is possible so that we do not have a dichotomy in the legislation where you can be treated as a minor on one hand if you don’t take marriage vows and you’re treated as an adult if you have.”

Photo: Archbishop Barbara Burke (right) and former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Burke has defended the right of religious sects to have child marriages. (Copyright News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Archbishop Barbara Burke (right) and former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Burke has defended the right of religious sects to have child marriages.
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

He argued that the legislation is intended to treat with how the country sees itself, explaining that when a young girl is asked or is forced to get married at an early age, it’s not just the girl who suffers but her siblings and extended family.

Furthermore, he said “…the trauma people suffer having to truncate their ambitions …you really understand why we need this legislation, and you really understand why every Member of Parliament should have the courage of their conviction to stand up and support this bill.”

Mr Cuffie said having listened to the arguments, no one from the Opposition bench has advanced reasons why there is need for a three-fifths majority to get the bill passed.

He said no one outlined how having the three-fifths majority will enhance the bill or what has been taken out of the bill that will affect a young man or woman because it does not have the three-fifths majority clause.

Photo: Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie.
Photo: Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie.

The Public Administration and Communications Minister said times have changed and the Government is putting systems and legislation in place to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago adopts legislation to create the kind of society which reflects those changes.

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39 comments

  1. Get real we are in 2017 and looking forward in a global village. Do you still use an outhouse.

  2. The pnm passed this law in the 50/60’s so they are responsible for it in the first place

  3. But the romeo clause allows for premarital sex amongst 14-17yr olds. What say ye?

  4. i work in social services. i know the issues. i am watching. That was the point of the original post though. Khalil Saif “Islamic Marriage according to the Holy Quran is not acceptable by force nor compulsion.” i refute that by saying 1) your prophet married a child, Aisha. Please let me know if the life of mohammed is in direct opposition to the instructions of the koran. 2) This quote is from your koran, which explictitly states “65:4 – Hilali-Khan trans. – “And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts (about their periods), is three months, and for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature) their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise, except in case of death]. And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is until they deliver (their burdens), and whosoever fears Allâh and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.”

    “Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl at this age but it is permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur’an has held as permissible.” (Maududi vol.5 p.620)”

  5. Real talk. Those attitudes, beliefs and actions are utterly indefensible, revealing an appalling level of ignorance, of wallowing in the past and the perpetuation of male privilege and, at best, misogyny.

  6. What ah——————————>>>>

  7. Spencer, our discussions have nothing to do with defending child marriage. You need to follow the issues closely to have an appreciation of the points that are being raised.
    It should serve you better than attempting to closely macco hard back men.

  8. If that’s your interpretation of the discourse, that’s your business, as it relates to me, {Khalil Saif} that all you can do my brother, watch.

    • Earl Best

      I feel he was talking about Maxie really. But if it fall in your garden, bro….

      Anyway, Spencer has often demonstrated that he doesn’t need any assistance where defending his positions is concerned so I gone…

  9. we watching allyuh who trying to defend child marrige.closely.

  10. Earl Best

    It seems to me that underlying Minister Cuffie’s argument is the conviction that laws shape culture in a one-way process. I am certain such thinking is flawed. Legislation and culture live in the same house and interact with each other but neither has primacy over the other.

    Aren’t there laws about murder? About speed on the highways/ About garbage and its disposal? How if at all has that helped us as a country to solve those problems?

    No, Maxie. First lesson: There is good law – rarely from the Rowley Govt – and there is bad law – Anand ramlogan, are you there?

    Lesson Two (not mine but from someone close to me): We need to understand that culture is quicksand and to remember that it is a most difficult thing for the culture to escape from itself.

    Education, formal AND informal, will go a long way. Legislation? I genuinely do not, Minister Cuffie, know…

  11. The Opposition has indicated that it will support the Bill, why not seek to protect it from being challenged in the Court by just allowing for a three fifths vote?

    The purpose for the special majority is due to certain persons indicating that they will challenge the matter in the Court as they claim that their freedom of family life and religious expression can be affected without the prescribed process outlined by the Constitution. To avoid the challenge, all the Govt has to do is include a special majority vote, which – the Opposition has already indicated it will support.

    • Earl Best

      Truetalk,
      What you say is obviously true but it ignores the wider issue of the meaning of the move to remove the requir,memnt for the 3/5 majority. What happens when the Opposition does NOT indicate that it will give its support? What ahppens when they indicate that they will NOT support?

      No, sirree, let’s not settle to get this piece of legislation through by any means necessary; we might just be creating more problems than we are solving.

  12. Islamic Marriage according to the Holy Quran is not acceptable by force nor compulsion.

    • Exactly Sio. That’s why Maxie et al need to review their one dimensional thinking and static position on this piece of legislation to reflect the sophistications of our modern society.

    • Siewdath, them fellas on foolishness, only diversionary tactics, they haven’t done one things of relevance, since assuming office. I want the Ag to tell the nation, what is the status of the drug lords and what they intend to do with the problem of money laundering. Maxie and the others are Christians, if they wanted a meaningful miscellaneous marriage act they would had real consultation with the Hindu and Muslim community and we could of even discuss the issue of polygamy which is part of our belief.

    • Btw Sio, isn’t Maxie your MP? Lol

    • No he’s not Santa Rosa is my electoral district, but he’s a kind of extended family as my grand-mother and his father are first cousins.

    • But San Raphael, up where your Mom lives and by Vish parents and they, falls in Maxie’s La Horquetta/Talparo constituency ent?

    • Sio bro, why don’t you consider running for the seat next time.
      You have far greater grassroots appeal than Garcia (Arima) and your second cousin Maxie (La Horquetta/Talparo).
      You are far more connected to the communities in either constituency and your passion for sport and culture, compassion for our youth and the elderly as well as your community mediation skills will be a great asset towards serving constituents in meaningful ways.
      Additionally, you will bring a verve and down-to-earth freshness in making practical sense during debates in Parliament.
      What say you, bro?

    • As it is I have no such ambition,who would want to be associated with PNM/UNC not me.

    • Who say you have to be associated with either?

    • I think we need to pull a council with Raoul and Flemmy to get their input… lol

    • There are other options besides UNC/PNM and to fight this scourge, we must all unite, as far as possible, leave all the egos outside the door

  13. While I support the idea of raising the marriageable age to 18 to prevent exploitation against younger girls, I find the contribution by some MPs in the Parliamentary debate to be uninformed, laden with ignorance and vacuous.
    If one were to critically examine statements made by La Horquetta/Talparo MP, the shallowness of the statements will become very clear to any discerning mind.
    Firstly, Maxie states: “When we have legislation that allowed women to be objectified, it leads to a culture where rape is prevalent, where violence against women is prevalent…”
    Questions: How did he come to this conclusion? What body of research is he relying on to make such anecdotal statement as fact? Does TT have current legislation objectifying women that is causing the reported upsurge in rape and violence against women? Again, where can one find the research from which Maxie’s anecdotal and fallacious conclusion is drawn in relation to TT’s domestic social decay? Are there currently provisions in the Baptiste/Orisha, Muslim and Hindu Marriage Act that are causing the recent reported upsurge in rape and violence against women all over the country? If so, where is the evidence?
    Maxie also states: “when a young girl is asked or is forced to get married at an early age, it’s not just the girl who suffers but her sibblings and extended family.”
    That is a more reasonable statement that can be accepted without supporting related data/research.
    However, what if a 16 or 17 year-old girl falls in love (not infatuation) with a male who is her age or even 18 or 19, say; and both the girl and boy want to marry (their own independent choice), and both sets of parents/guardians are supportive of their free will decision to enter into holy matrimony; what if the girl becomes pregnant…
    Won’t it make sense to allow the Fam Court to examine such special cases and grant permission to marry if it so deems?
    Indeed the Court will ensure appropriate counselling services etc are provided.
    Just asking

  14. To the best of my knowledge Mr Cuffie is a Roman Catholic, he had the perfect opportunity to zero in on the Priest who abuse under age boys. Apparently he forgot that charity begins at home.

    • Earl Best

      I don’t know if he is a Catholic – he did attend St Mary’s College – but I don’t think it is relevant; it shouldn’t be! What is relevant is that he is a minister of government and that means he should attempt to paint accurate and comprehensive pictures of the reality with which we are dealing. So if he thought that priests who abuse under-age boys – he did attend St Mary’s College in the bad old days – is germane here, he certainly should have made mention of it.

      But is that issue germane to a discussion of the Marriage Act? That’s at least a stretch!

    • I’d say that sex with minors is illegal so those priests are already on the wrong side of the law. So the law enforcement people simply have to do their jobs.
      Whereas child marriage is legal and requires political intervention to change it.

    • You are correct in respect to law enforcement, my problem with the exercise is the lack of meaningful consultation with the stake-holders. I would of like to discuss with the Ag the issue of polygamy which could of been part of the amendements.

    • I thought there was consultation actually. But I don’t know much about that side of it. And of course there should be.

    • Lasana maybe you really need to educate yourself before posting these articles to stir up the racist elements. There is no sensible convo here on all your posts re this issue

    • Savitri Maharaj posting a media release from a Govt Minister is stirring up racist elements? This isn’t North Korea.
      Should the US media not publish anything that Donald Trump says on the grounds that they are afraid someone might find it offensive?

    • Someone who will vote on a piece of legislation is giving his view of it. Why would we censor that? Our role is to present his view so that people can discuss it.
      That’s the media’s job really. This is a national issue and Maxie Cuffie is well-placed to give an opinion on it.

  15. Cuffie should be aware that there exists a flat earth movement that holds the belief that our planet is not spheriod. Not everyone in the 21st century subscribes to science, logic and morality and it is a grave mistake to assume otherwise.

    • Do you think there ought to be a grey area for child marriage in T&T though, Kendall? Or are “we” right to say that the rights of children to an uninterrupted childhood is non-negotiable?

    • I have a zero tolerance approach to anything that impacts negatively on the wellbeing of children Lasana. That includes child marriage, genital mutilation, pedophilia and discrimination for starters.

  16. State-by-State Legal Age Marriage Laws – thespruce.com
    https://www.thespruce.com/legal-age-marriage-laws-by-state-2300971
    Marriage license laws in the United States are reflecting that belief. In the United States, all but one state requires that a couple be 18 in order to marry without …