30 May 2017

Over 50 child marriages a year in Tonga

8:02 pm on 30 May 2017

Tonga has averaged over 50 teen marriages annually over the past two years, a women's advocate says.

No caption

Vanessa Heleta Photo: RNZ Pacific/Koro Vakauta

Vanessa Heleta runs the Talitha Project, which is trying to get a change in the marriage laws with its "Let Girls be Girls!" initiative.

Tonga currently allows people between the ages of 15 and 17 to get married if they have their parents' consent.

Ms Heleta said in 2015 there were 56 child marriages, as they are known in Tonga, and in 2016 there were 52.

She said 15 child marriages have been registered so far this year.

"It's really saddened my heart. I don't think it's right. This day and age we should not encourage child marriages," she said.

"This project is all about enhancing and giving opportunities to the young girls to be the best that they can be. This law is not doing that."

Pregnancies led to such marriages, and young girls were even pressured to get married if they were simply seen or perceived to be with boys, she said.

  • Campaign launched in Tonga to end child marriage
  • Tongan centre to provide women with 'safe place'