It is amazing, though not surprising, how easily our people can be distracted from the important issues that we face as a nation, currently galloping crime and an economy in crisis.
Last week, everyone—from captain to crook—was consumed in debate over a rather stupid statement that Harrypersad Maharaj issued on behalf of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), which called on Government to support existing laws that allow for Muslim and Hindu girls, aged 12 and 14 respectively, to be legally wedded.
How that issue happened to engage the attention of the geriatric geezers who form the IRO council, executive or whatever, remains a mystery. Especially after several denominations denied that they had been present at the meeting, or had agreed to support child marriages.
I tried but could not imagine these hard-back men, and maybe one hard-faced woman, meeting at a time when rivers of blood are running through the streets and alleys of the country, when hundreds, maybe thousands of workers are thrown on the breadline, when so many institutions have seemingly collapsed.
And all they could discuss was a law as archaic as their brains that keeps little girls in legal bondage.
I say legal bondage because that is precisely what it is: not one of those imams or pundits would dare tell their 12 year-old granddaughter—well, their daughters will surely be adults—that she must marry the big-belly man-in-the-van. She would slap their sagging faces.
Put another way, when last has anyone heard of or known about a 12 year-old being forced into marriage with any adult, least of all with some man who could be her ancestor?
Do you think Harry or any of his Hindu or Muslim brethren will have their 14 year-old forego her education, scuttle her career path to marry some “locho?” Never!
So, other than removing such abominable laws from the statute books—and there are many other archaic laws that we need to dump—this is not an issue we should be preoccupied with, not when there are other matters of urgent national importance.
In fact, one such issue is related: it is well established that underage sex—meaning between boys and girls below 18—is rampant across the country, although it becomes an issue only when some girls become pregnant or contract serious sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, or maybe die in childbirth.
And lest many my age, or adults 40 and over turn up their noses in sanctimonious disgust at the mere thought of underage sex. Let me remind them that such behaviour has been around almost forever.
Back in my boyhood days in the 1950s, some girls would mysteriously drop out of school, only to resurface later with “popos” in tow.
The wealthy and high society people sent their pregnant daughters abroad. As for the boys, you could not reach 15 and not have sex, even if you had to lie to your equally-lying peers!
Been there, done that. So let us not pretend we were saints and the current lot are sinners.
With instant pornography piled onto peer pressure, and with the hormones acting up earlier because of today’s lifestyles and diets, we must accept that many, if not most, underage teens are sexually active.
Marrying them off in accordance with Harry’s laws is not the answer. There are several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are equipped to counsel the children about sex, pregnancy, diseases, and so on. Government must fund them—and insist on accountability—and lend other support.
Also, the laws that govern underage sex must not be so structured to make criminals of boys who engage in consensual sex with underage girls. Such laws must target adults, especially hard-back men who exploit children—including family members, relatives, professionals and the wealthy.
Rape or sexual exploitation is not a low-class thing: it never was. Rapists come in all guises, from the tattooed, tank-topped caveman to the nattily-dressed, limousine-driving ape. The law must put such beasts behind bars for life—plus a few years!
These are children-related issues that we should focus on and help resolve: forget the religious creatures from Jurassic lagoon. Let these nubile girls enjoy their childhood years, since there is not much happiness on the horizon as they face the inevitability of adulthood in an increasingly inequitable world without pity.
We should be formulating strategies and implementing programmes to steer young boys away from lives of crime, from the clutches of gangsters who offer them leadership that they cannot find among politicians, priests, teachers or non-criminal community leaders.
Gang leaders have become surrogate fathers, providers, role models to thousands of youths.
That should bother us—not Harry and his cohorts. They will soon pass on, as will their repugnant laws. The boy-criminals will remain to make our lives hell.