10 Jun 2016

Is there a need for speed?

Since speed guns were introduced in Trinidad and Tobago for use by the police to crack down on speeding drivers, I noted that LOTS of people were bemoaning the 80 kmph (50 mph) speed limit. Impatient speedsters – impatient to reach the after life I suppose – were/are calling for raising the speed limit, and arguing for an increase in the town limits as well.

In merrie ol’ England,  I received in my mail, notice from the City Council announcing that the speed limit within the city will be reduced to 20 mph. That’s right. 20!! The slogan? “Slower is safer.”

The protest? None, nada, natch, zero, zilch, zip.

5 Jun 2016

When dinosaurs rule the Rock

* Regular readers know I call Trinidad and Tobago “The Rock” because, after all, it is only a small Rock in the ocean. England, where I now live, is a slightly bigger Rock.

dinosNow when ah talkin’ bout dinosaurs, ah did really mean it in ah anachronistic sense, fuh dem people who tink I eh know dat dinosaurs dead long, long time back. I really mean de almost dead dinosaurs who callin’ the religious and cultural shots on de Rock.

We have ah few ole fogies, well beyond de age where ah ‘oman could have any interes’ for or in dem, and Viagra eh go help matters, spinnin’ stories how chile marriages should stay de way it always was and still is – dat it okay fuh hardback old men who could still use Viagra tuh marrid ah gyul chile who only 12 years old.

Now, de way I see it, I tink de UN was on de right track. Ah chile have a right tuh grow up happy, playing wid dolly or whatever else dey fancy dese days. Buh she shouldn have tuh fraid dat when night come some man pushin’ part ah he body she eh have no right tuh know about at this tender age, in some part ah she body she was taught to protect from same hardback men.

Buh de dinosaurs playing de ole blame game. One ah dem even imply dat the UN is de USA, dat de decisions made in NY and even de USA have chile marriages when dey tellin’ everybody else how tuh protect chirren. De dinosaurs brain half-dead… de cyah see dat is a separate issue, ah fallacy argument. De UN is a whole set ah countries arong de world who come to various agreements, and de majority decisions is what is accepted. Once dey make ah Treaty, and ah country sign it, den is de responsibility ah dat same country to revamp de law it have to come tuh de standard set by de Treaty. And since de Rock sign up tuh protect de rights ah de chirren, it have a duty, and I want yuh tuh watch dat word I use, ah duty tuh make chile marriages ah ting ah de past.

Allyuh see dis ting call LAW? It eh ah easy ting to understand, and de most smartest man on de street is usually ah ignoramus when it come tuh de law. Buh de ting is, if one man living alone on ah island, he eh need no law except tuh survive. Watch dat Tom Hanks’ film, “Cast Away”, tuh see wha ah talkin’ bout. Buh once anedder man or ‘oman’ set foot on dat island, de rules change. Now yuh boy on de Rock have tuh tink about how tuh geh along wid de interloper. Dey have tuh make rules about sharing – space, food, resources etc. Den dey have tuh make sure dat one man fish or fowl eh get tief by de odder. And if he get tief out, what he could do about it. One man might be a castaway, buh two go be a society forming. So dey need rules, or law tuh name it right, tuh survive and tuh protect dey own interests.

Dat is de basis ah laws. To protect and tuh allow people tuh live together in peace. Buh here is de real ting. Law arong since man learn how tuh talk and make fire, or maybe even before. Dat eh surprising. Wha’ surprising doh, is dat is only in de last 150 to 200 years, dat ting like slavery and chile marriage become taboo. Before dat, if yuh check yuh facts, yuh will see dat it was okay tuh have slaves, beat dem, rape dem, stone dem, make chile wid dem, and same fuh chile brides.

Buh humans have ah cognitive ability. Ah mean dey could tink and reason. And somewhere dong de line in recent times, some tinkers puh de idea forward dat we evolve beyond dis base and crass behaviour. So we make changes tuh society, de law and we progressing. Except for dinosaurs, who as we know, couldn’ really adapt farse enough tuh change. Dat is why we have oil. (De funny ting is dat de places wid de oil is also de places slowest tuh change).

Now, I eh go say dat de dinosaurs wasn’ useful – dat paragraph above is de show dat dey still fuellin’ we society. Buh dey dead. And so will de dinosaurs who leading de religious. Dey go dead soon too. Fuh me, it wouldn’ be soon enough, doh I eh really have dat bad mind to wish dey dead now. Let nature takes its course. Buh wha’ I worried about is de damage dey doing tuh society, and tuh de chirren by dey stubbornness and dotishness.

30 May 2016

Secular State?

I have often read or heard in the media, comments by various people that Trinidad and Tobago is a secular state. I don’t know how or where that misconception came about as the very first paragraph of the Constitution clearly states:

Whereas the People of Trinidad and Tobago—
(a) have affirmed that the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms, the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator;

and the fourth:

(d) recognise that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;

You can read it yourself on page 27 of this link.

For more information on what morality means and its relationship to law, readers should dig into the Hart-Devlin debate. Morality is independent of both religion and culture, but in the minds of most people, morality is religion and culture.

Coming back on course, I hope that people can accept that Trinidad and Tobago is NOT a secular country and that religion is given an unproportioned weight in decision making.

28 May 2016

Thought of the Day

“Beware of the little expenses,

a small leak will sink a great ship.”

~Benjamin Franklin

20 May 2016

Shades of Grey

I’m returning to the issue of child marriages in Trinidad and Tobago - particularly the marriage of girls - as contained in Muslim, Hindu and Orisha Marriage Acts. Taking them in the order I have written, the ages approved for females in the respective Acts are: 12 (Muslim), 14 (Hindu) and 16 (Orisha). The law is a confused tangle of grey areas and child marriages are actually a form of modern slavery.

Now here is a good example of the shades of grey I mentioned: – The Married Persons Act 1977, which states in Section 3:

3. Subject to this Act, a married woman shall—

        (a) be capable of acquiring, holding, and disposing of any property;

        (b) be capable of rendering herself, and being rendered, liable in respect of any tort, contract, debt or obligation;
        (c) be capable of suing and being sued, either in tort or in contract or otherwise; and
        (d) be subject to the law relating to bankruptcy and to the enforcement of judgments and orders,
in all respects as if she were a feme sole

So, here we have the possibility of a minor, who legally cannot enter into legal relationships such as contracts, obligations and those mentioned above by virtue that she is under the age of majority (there is an Age of Majority Act), but is able under the Married Persons Act to do the self-same things she would normally be prohibited from doing! Further, nothing in the Married Persons Act makes exception to Section 3.

Here is another example. Under the Children Act 1925 a person under the age of 14 is defined as a ‘child’. A person between the ages of 14 to 16 is defined as a ‘young person’. And there are penalties for anyone who:

wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes the child or young person, or causes or procures the child or young person to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause the child or young person unnecessary suffering or injury to his health (including injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement)

But what if that person is the ‘husband’ under the Muslim or Hindu Marriage Act? There are several sections in the Children Act just as confusing.

In reality however, as I mentioned yesterday, there are several Conventions and Treaties under International Law to which Trinidad and Tobago is signatory, some 200+ international treaties. One of these is the Convention on the Rights of the Child ‘which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children’ and which states that a ‘child’ is anyone under the age of 18.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guarantees several rights to women, one of which is “women's right to equality in marriage and family life along with the right to equality before the law”. Further more, Article 2 is very powerful: it mandates that states parties ratifying the Convention declare intent to enshrine gender equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. Well, we can see that didn’t happen.

But along comes another conflict: The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages merely asks that States prescribe a minimum age in domestic law but does not say what that age is to be. And indeed within this Convention is another grey area: ‘Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family’. Full age means 18 as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And here is another thing… the husband of a child bride where he is an adult is likely to exercise ‘control of her movement, control of physical environment, psychological control, measures taken to prevent or deter escape, force, threat of force or coercion, duration, assertion of exclusivity, subjection to cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality and forced labour’. These are the characteristics of slavery [Prosecutor v Kunarac et al (Judgment) IT-96-23 & IT -96923/1-T (22 February 2001)].

Child marriage can be referred to as slavery, if the following three elements are present:

  • If the child has not genuinely given their free and informed consent to enter the marriage;
  • If the child is subjected to control and a sense of “ownership” in the marriage itself, particularly through abuse and threats, and is exploited by being forced to undertake domestic chores within the marital home or labour outside it, and/or engage in non-consensual sexual relations; 
  • If the child cannot realistically leave or end the marriage, leading potentially to a lifetime of slavery.

[Anti-Slavery International]

I guess religion though, trumps law and common sense.