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Tuesday 13 November 2018
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My parents married me off

13-year-old Venezuelan child bride tells police

NALINEE SEELAL

THE 13-year-old Venezuelan girl who was rescued by police last Wednesday night, told interpreters on Friday she was married to a Trinidadian man under Warahoon tribal rites and brought to this country by boat.

The girl said the boat was a fishing pirogue which landed in waters near Morne Diablo a few days ago. She said she was taken to a house in which there were several apartments and she was taken to a room where she was being kept.

She said she was fed, allowed to bathe and was not sexually assaulted. Police were told the man who married her communicated with her in Spanish. According to sources, the girl claimed she was married to the man during a tribal ceremony in an island off Venezuela and her parents consented to the marriage. Speaking through interpreters, she said it was customary for teenage girls to be married to older men to take them out of poverty but she gave no further information about how she met the man or who arranged the marriage.

Warahoon is a derivative of Warao, an indigenous group of people from Venezuela who inhabit the mangrove areas of the Orinoco delta. They are usually short in stature and brown in complexion. They live in thatched houses and use canoes as their mode of transport along the river’s tributaries.

She said she was promised a better life in Trinidad which she willingly accepted because she was fed-up of living in impoverished conditions.

Police said yesterday that the Children’s Authority and the Child Protection Unit (CPU) would be communicating with the Venezuelan ambassador to this country Coromoto Godoy Calderon with a view to making contact with the girl’s parents so that she could be returned. Members of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), who are also involved in the investigation, said yesterday that even if the girls parents are not contacted or cannot be found, the girl would be returned to Venezuela and be placed as a ward of the State.

However it was noted that when a girl is married according to the rites of the Warahoon tradition, she is considered a woman and will not be accepted back into the care of her family.

CTU officers said yesterday they are working on information that the 24-year-old man who brought the girl to this county may be involved in human trafficking. A search has been mounted for him.

On Wednesday, South Western Division police headed by Sgt Ablacksingh raided a house at Penal Rock Road where they found the girl and handed her over to the CPU.

Head of the CTU Alana Wheeler said while she could not divulge any information with regards to the investigation, “it is very unfortunate what is happening in TT where people are exploiting the vulnerable in Venezuela especially seeking out minors for their own selfish needs.”

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