LALIT has a firm position on the importance of fixing a legal minimum age for marriage. Unlike other parties we have taken a stand, and militated on this issue from as far back as at least 1984. We thus support the call, in the context of the recent tragic death of a young girl, who died pregnant and after a religious marriage at 13-14 years of age, for the marriage age to be raised, once again, to 18 years old.
We ran the following title in our weekly newspaper in April 1984: “Fer 16-an laz mazer alor!” – meaning “Well, in that case, bring the age of majority up to 16 years”.
Now, when you read the title of this 1984 article, you might think you are not understanding what you are reading. It seems, from the article, as though the age of marriage had, before April 1984, already been 18 years, and yet you always thought that, from time immemorial, there had been child marriages.
In fact, what happened was there was massive pressure in the late 1970’s from women’s demonstrations and petitions, marches and big public women’s meetings outdoors in the Company Gardens, all to protest against unjust marriage laws. The State eventually had to react. On the advice of a French expert, Prof Garron, the Seewoosagur Ramgoolam government overhauled the Code Napoleon marriage laws and, in doing so, did in fact make the minimum age for marriage 18 years old, as one of a series of amendments in the early 1980’s to the Code Napoleon, which governs matrimonial and related laws.
And then, unbelievably, this progress was reversed. On 10 April, 1984, the Aneerood Jugnauth – Gaetan Duval – Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Government with unanimous MMM Opposition support reversed the decision in Pariament.
It is, although it has taken them 24 years and the death of a young girl to put on their agenda a formal call for the minimum age for marriage to be 18 years again, to the credit of all these parties that their political stand is finally changing.
Anyway, for the record, here is LALIT’s position in 1984, responding to the reactionary move on the part of the Jugnauth Government at the time to bring the marriage age down from 18 to 16:
Here is what an article in Lagazet Lalit de Klas says:
“Dan lasanble lezislativ mardi 10 avril , guvernman [MSM-PT-PMSD] ek lopozisyon MMM inn vot an faver enn amandman Kod Napoleon, ki permet bann miner 16 an marye ek konsantman paran. Avan ki ti vot sa lamandman la dan lasanble, Duval an tan ki Minis Lazistis ti explik dan MBC-TV ki so guvernman inn truv li neseser pu propoz sa nuvo lalwa akoz presyon relizye.
“Nu, dan LALIT, nu denons sa nuvo lalwa la parski li atak drwa aki bann fam dan Moris ek usi parski li reprezant enn kapitilasyon guvernman ek lopozisyon a presyon relizye. Nu elev nu kont sa amandman la parski, dapre nu, li retir proteksyon legal ki ansyen lalwa ti donn bann miner ki pa anvi marye. Azordi avek nuvo lalwa, si enn miner pa ule marye, li pena okenn drwa legal pu anpes so paran marye li.
“Nu propoze ki guvernman amand laz legal mazorite pu li vinn 16 an; lerla, li pu vinn enn drwa pu tu dimunn ki ena 16 an pu marye si zot ule.” (Lagazet Lalit de Klas Nimero 34, 1 Me, 1984).
The principle is this: The minimum age to be able to make a marriage contract must be the same as the age of majority. A young woman must be able to be free, as an adult, to refuse pressures to be married off, to be forced to marry, to be duped into marriage, or to enter into a marriage contract before she is an independent human being.
So, we in LALIT call for the marriage age to be raised, once again, to 18 years old.