15 Jul 2009

Fiji regime raises female marriage age to 18

9:22 pm on 15 July 2009

The interim government in Fiji has raised the legal marriage age for women to 18 because of fears that young women were being exploited.

The interim attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says Fiji had inherited laws from colonial times which allowed girls to be married from the age of 16 with their parents' consent.

He says a presidential decree has now been issued, making the legal age of marriage 18 for both sexes because the earlier age was inappropriate in the modern age.

"It has led to exploitation in particular, people at the lower social economic bracket, females were being used more as commodities, I'm not saying by everybody, or by all families, but by some families."

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says there has also been a kind of black market for young girls, with foreigners arranging marriages for them.

He says concern about the marriage age has been raised by women's groups and in newspapers and there is public support for raising the age.