3 Apr 2018

Fight to ban child brides in American Samoa not over

12:16 pm on 3 April 2018

American Samoa is to reintroduce a bill increasing the age young women can marry from 14 to 18.

Men in the territory can marry at 18.

Representative Fialupe Fiaui Lutu's bill aims for gender equality while recognising the developmental needs of young women.

Her bill received strong support in the House but faltered at its final reading in the Senate last week.

The territory's chief legislative counsel Nathaniel Savali said Fialupe aimed to re-introduce the bill in the next session of the Fono.

"In the July session. The rules for the House as well as for the Senate (do) not allow her to re-introduce it in the same session that it was rejected."

The American Samoa Legislature Fono building in Fagatogo

The American Samoa Legislature Fono building in Fagatogo Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

He said the Fono had been receiving a lot of feed-back via social media in support of the bill, some quite angry that it wasn't passed into law.

The women's advocacy group Pae ma Auli said the Senate did not have a thorough enough look at the bill before rejecting it.

Its president Leiataua Leuga Turner wants to ensure the bill is reintroduced with significant public education and feedback.

She said Pae ma Auli was organising a survey to establish public opinion and said they would work with children's advocates to bring together data on what is best for girls and young women.

"And then, should this bill be introduced, we will like to be part of that development by sharing the information from the survey," she said.

"Also to give people who are knowledgeable with child development an opportunity to assist."

Leiataua Leuga Turner said all the information would be incorporated and offered to the Fono for its consideration.

Counsellor Savali said Fialupe was previously the Chief Clerk of the House and over her 20 years had seen others attempt to pass similar legislation.

He said this was her first bill and she was very determined.

"She's very passionate about her role as a representative as well as championing women and children, and issues that affect them."

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