The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Issues concerning children

Tuesday, 4 October 2022, 08:59 Last update: about 2 years ago

There are a number of worrying children’s issues in Maltese society which have emerged as of late.

The first revolves around marriage. The Office of the Commissioner for Children has said that the legal age of marriage should be raised to 18 years to specifically prevent children from being promised for arranged marriages by their parents.

“The Office has always advocated for the legal age of marriage to be raised to 18 (current legislation permits 16- and 17-year-olds to get married with their parent/guardian’s consent), specifically to prevent children from being promised for arranged marriages by their parents,” it said.

Really and truly, the age of marriage should be raised 18. 16 and 17 is just too young to get married, and the maturity required to take such a decision just isn’t there. Now it’s not as though at 18 a switch flips and a person suddenly matures, but two years at that age does see changes in terms of maturity levels.

Another worrying issue is that cultural and legal experts recently told The Malta Independent on Sunday that child marriages are not technically a crime in Malta under the nation’s criminal code. Girls as young as 12 have been reportedly disappearing from their classroom after being married off to older men. The experts said that individuals who engage in this practice could only be prosecuted on the grounds of “ill-treatment of a child” as the law does not recognise any of these marriages.

This is unacceptable. One child being in such a situation is one child too much. The country’s laws should immediately be amended to fix this situation.

The Office of the Commissioner also said that child early and forced marriage (CEFM) has been a concern for a number of years and it has continually advocated for adequate protection of children. “Even though there are measures in place to protect children from CEFM, stronger efforts should be made to raise awareness of the harmful effects of CEFM; to enhance the training of professionals and other key persons as well as to improve mechanisms and procedures to better identify children at risk,” it said.

We need to strengthen our laws and fight to ensure that no child is ever abused in such a way. Forced marriages should be met with very strong legal and criminal repercussions and we must do our utmost to protect victims of such practices.

There are other issues regarding children that have emerged over recent years. One such concern relates to the cannabis legislation.  One questions how, exactly, the authorities will ensure that people do not smoke inside their own homes when children are around? In an ideal society, no parent would do such a thing, but realistically speaking, with the world being as we know it, can there be such a guarantee.

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