Sat | Sep 19, 2020

St James custos says no to child marriages

Published:Monday | November 18, 2019 | 12:11 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Bishop Conrad Pitkin, the custos of St James, is hitting out against parents who allow their daughters to get married before reaching the age of consent, while also warning that such young brides can become victims of human trafficking.

Pitkin made his position clear while addressing a child protection forum, put on by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in St James on Thursday evening.

“I am appalled when I hear some news, because as far as I am concerned, as the custos of this parish, and as a pastor, I don’t think that a ... girl at age 16 has the capacity, be that physical or emotional, to deal with sexual relationships, more so to get married,” Pitkin told the forum.

“What mother or father in their right sense could ever give the approval (for marriage) to a child that needs an education and further development? You don’t come to me with that nonsense, because you know the answer from me.”

Form of human trafficking

Pitkin related an experience in which a mother came to get his approval for her young daughter to marry a man from the United States.

“Some retard ‘pastor’ from the United States proposed to the person, and they came to me. I said to the mother, ‘Uh-uh, you have come to the wrong marriage officer, because all that person wants is someone to use and exploit, and I am not going to be part of it, because when that child leaves the shores of Jamaica, you don’t know what is going to happen’,” Pitkin said.

“Human trafficking comes in many forms, even in marriage, too, and as parents, you have a God-given responsibility to protect your child.”

Pitkin’s comments come on the heels of recent reports that the controversial Qahal Yahweh Church in Montego Bay was allegedly conducting child marriages.

Between October 31 and November 5, the police removed six children, including a pregnant 16 year-old, from the compound of the church, which is under investigation for human trafficking, abduction, child abuse and sexual assault.