THE head of the local Warao community has sharply criticised the authorities for removing a 13-year-old Warao bride from a house in Penal where she was being kept after her reported “marriage” to a man in his 20s.
In April the girl was rescued by police from the house and handed over to the Children’s Authority.
In an interview with Newsday, Grand Chief of the Warao community Rabina Shar said according to Warao tradition, the girl was legally married to the man. The Warao are an indigenous group from Venezuela who traditionally inhabit the mangrove areas of the Orinoco delta.
He said, “A deal was struck. A dowry was paid. This marriage is legal according to Warao tradition. She is, in a manner of speaking, his property, and it was unlawful and illegal for the authorities to take her away, “ he said.
Shar said in the Warao tradition, once a girl reaches puberty, she is considered ready for marriage.
He said the teenage girl has been caught in a clash of cultures.
“She is now a prisoner. She cannot go back to her people in Venezuela. as she is a now a married woman. She is now like a refugee, a victim trapped between the laws of TT and the Warao tradition.”
Shar felt his people have being sidelined and their traditions cast aside over the years.
He is nevertheless calling for a proper investigation involving the governments of TT and the Venezuela into the “marriage” to find out what really happened, and said if wrongdoing is discovered and the Warao people were taken advantage of, the perpetrators should be brought to justice.
In April girl told police who took her from an apartment in Penal that she was married to a Trinidadian man under Warao tribal rites and brought to this country by boat.