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May 29, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Let Girls be Girls

A Tongan advocacy group has launched a campaign to prevent child marriages.

The Talitha Project Tonga launched the Let Girls Be Girls! campaign on May 19. The campaign seeks to lift the legal age of marriage in Tonga to 18 years old. Currently, those aged between 15–17 are able to marry with parental consent.

Vanessa Heleta, the Director of the Talitha Project, told Salient that “allowing children to marry, particularly girls, puts them at risk of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, forced pregnancy, domestic servitude, restrictions of movement and autonomy, and lack of access to education.”

Heleta said that changing the law would allow children to “fully develop themselves intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually.”

Government response to the project has been positive. Heleta said that the Minister of Justice, Sione Vuna Fa’otusia, was in “full support.”

The CEO of the Ministry of Justice, Susana Faletau, was also said to be “passionate” about the campaign.

Public response is more varied. Heleta acknowledged that while the majority of the public response has been “very positive,” there has “been resistance from others, but that can be expected.”

Despite mixed opinions, Heleta remains adamant — “this is not just a legal obligation […] it’s a moral obligation.”

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