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Wednesday 14 November 2018
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Cops rescue child bride

Venezuelan girl, 13, ‘married’ in ‘tribal ritual’ in Penal

RYAN HAMILTON-DAVIS

Police who were searching a house in Penal on Wednesday afternoon, made the chilling discovery of a 13-year-old girl who was brought into the country days ago from Venezuela as a child bride.

Newsday was told the child is now in a safe house, while officers of the Child Protection Unit and the Anti-Trafficking Unit interview her.

Her assumed husband, a 24-year-old man from Penal Rock Road, cannot be found.

Police told Newsday yesterday, officers of the South western Division, led by Sgt Ablacksingh, were conducting an exercise between the hours of 2 pm and 7 pm on Wednesday.

Police received information of a man in Penal who may have been harbouring illegal immigrants, as well as prohibited animals, and executed a search warrant at the house, only to find the 13-year-old girl in a room adjoining the house.

The child told police that she had been brought into the country and she had gotten married to the man under what she told police was “tribal rites”.

Police were also told that the child had been married to the man on a small island off the coast of Venezuela, before she was brought here four days ago.

Police alerted the Child Protection Unit, who with the assistance of the Children’s Authority, found a safe house for the child.

The child is now being assessed on her psychological and physical health and being interviewed by agents of the Children’s Authority, as well as the Child Protection Unit and Counter Trafficking Unit.

Chairman of the Children’s Authority Hanif Benjamin told Newsday the response of the unit upon hearing of the Venezuelan child bride was immediate, as per their mandate to protect all endangered children, regardless of background or ethnicity.

He added that in today’s world, “our local agencies have to be prepared to deal with situations similar to this one.”

“We have to understand that we are operating in a global village, and we also have to understand that we are not impervious to the challenges that the world is facing. We have to prepare ourselves to deal with many challenges and this is one such challenge.

“We have to be aware that our neighbours are going through difficulties and we are not impervious to the movement of people, the movement of drugs, the movement of guns.

It now becomes critical for agencies to prepare themselves and to move away from archaic methods of dealing with things.” Benjamin said. The Marriage Bill was introduced and read for the first time in the Senate on December 19 by Attorney General Faris Al Rawi. The Bill amended chapters and lines in the Marriage Act, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act.

The amendments limited the age to be married without consent to the age of 16 and the consent for people wanting to be married between the age of 16 and 18.

According to United Nations’ statistics, each year 15 million girls are married before the age of 18.

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