Archbishop Joseph Harris: Child marriage is like legalised statutory rape

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 20:00

Archbishop of Port-of-Spain, Joseph Harris says forcing a 13-year-old to be married is legalised statutory rape.

He made the comment in a live Facebook Question and Answer session today, in response to a question on the controversial child marriage topic.

The Archbishop said a 13-year-old does not understand what marriage is about and should not be forced.

“Culture is not something that is perfect, cultures are never perfect, you have good customs and bad customs and there are those customs you have to repudiate and those you have to exalt and make better.

"From where I sit, intercourse and childbirth at 12, 13, 14, is not good so from a purely physical point of view that should not be allowed and if it is part of the culture it has to be evangelised and brought to a spot in which relationships and marriage relationships are truly understood and a 13-year-old, a 12-year-old does not understand what marriage is about. 

"Legalised statutory rape"

"A 13-year-old is a child, a 13-year-old should not be forced into that type of relationship, that is legalised statutory rape,” he said.

Asked about Brother Harrypersad Maharaj’s claim that there was a unanimous decision by 17 members of the IRO that there should be no change to the Marriage Acts, the Archbishop said neither he nor his representative Father Sirju was at the meeting.

“We weren’t called afterward nor did we call to say we agreed to the position allegedly taken by the IRO. It was wrong to say it was unanimous because the Catholic church does not agree with that position.”

IRO head a "dishonest man"

Dean Knolly Clarke, the Anglican’s Church representative on the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), said Brother Harrypersad Maharaj is a dishonest man.

“It wasn’t unanimous at all, we cannot agree to that. According to our regulations, we cannot under the civil marriage act marry children under 18,” he said, explaining that Christian marriages fall under the civic act.

“This IRO man is pretending , we do not belong to it and we do not agree to that. I was not even at the meeting. I have found a lot of things that I don’t like and I am challenging it, I have not gone to a meeting in about four months,” said Clarke.

He said he is one hundred percent behind a change in the marriage laws noting that even in India, there are calls for an end to child marriages.