18 May 2016

When jackasses sing…

all I hear is ‘hee haw’.

This is the case with ‘Brother’ Harrypersad Maharaj, head of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO). In saying that he (and the IRO) condones marriages of girls from ages 12 (Muslim faith) and 14 (Hindu faith), he comes across as a paedophile... which is itself both surprising and not surprising, because like a good Catholic priest takes a vow of celibacy, so has ‘Brother’ Harry, being a member of the Raja Yoga faith.

He is not alone. Sat Maharaj of the Sanatan Dharam Maha Sabha (SDMS) has also given the green light, under the enlightened wisdom of the ages where ‘evidence’ of arranged child marriages ‘worked’ as there were no divorces, despite husbands beating their underage wives like lathi* beat rice. I suppose sometimes they even used said lathis. Incidents of paedophilia are not unknown, in fact are quite rampant in the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago in particular.

Others have adequately dealt with the braying jackasses, but I wish to offer another view.

As activist and women’s rights champion Verna St Rose-greaves quite rightly pointed out, Trinidad and Tobago is signatory to several International Treaties including the Convention for the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. These directly contradict the laws of TnT on child marriages.

There are those who will argue that local law (statute) trumps treaties. Nothing is further from the truth. The moment TnT became a signatory to these treaties, that meant that the country agreed to update its domestic laws to meet the requirements of the treaties. In other words, Trinidad and Tobago placed itself in the position of having to take positive steps to meet the requirements and honour the rights of women and children.

Failure to do so can be challenged in court, by any one of those child brides. And I shudder to think of the compensation avalanche to follow.