20 May 2017

Campaign launched in Tonga to end child marriage

11:29 am on 20 May 2017

Tonga has launched a "Let Girls be Girls!" campaign aimed to stop child marriage in the Kingdom.

The campaign seeks to repeal Tonga's law on marriage and lift the legal age to 18-years and over. Currently the law allows children from the ages of 15-17 to marry with parental consent.

Matangi Tonga reports the campaign initiated by Talitha Project supported by the Ministry of Justice was launched at the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel late last week.

There is concern that child marriages in Tonga are a growing trend.

Vanessa Heleta, founder of the Talitha Project, said that a team of mothers and daughters are committed towards ensuring young girls reach their full potential.

"They are unified in the understanding that in order for the young girls of Tonga to realise their supreme potential they should be equipped, educated and prepared for the inevitable challenges ahead," she said.

"Let Girls be Girls!" is campaigning to repeal sections in the Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act 1926 which state that children from the ages of 15-17 are allowed to marry with parental consent."

She said there are too many cases of child marriages out of parental pressure rather than consent.

"The pressure from parents on their children to marry is not in the best interest of the child but rather to save face and avoid public humiliation or for some other ulterior motive like personal gain."

"Teen pregnancy is one such reason for parental insistence for marriage and other reasons," she said.

"We must not let pride and fear take over common sense. We must do what is the best for the child at all times. Laws should reflect the values of society, and our laws should protect women, men, boys and girls, everyone."

Tonga has signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1995, a legal obligation to protect our children, Vanessa Heleta said.