16 Jul 2009

Fiji interim government says marriage law change will be supported

12:55 pm on 16 July 2009

Fiji's interim attorney general says there will be support for the government's decision to raise the legal marriage age because of public concern that young women were being used as commodities.

The interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says a presidential decree has been issued raising the marriage age for women from 16 to 18 with parental consent.

He says Fiji had inherited inappropriate laws from colonial times which allowed girls to be married with their parents' consent from the age of 16.

He says concerns have been raised about the law by women's groups and in newspapers.

"The Fiji Times did an article about the fact that you had all these underage marriages taking place, girls being used as commodities and being sold off. A lot of foreigners coming in and exploiting these girls. Getting them married and leaving them after a while. There was a particular black marketing area, I suppose if you like, of girls."

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says some families, particularly from lower income brackets, had also been exploiting young females.