PNG Marriage Laws To Be Amended As Part Of Reform Bundle To Legally Recognize Traditional Marriage And Protect Minors

Considered vital for the implementation of the Children Protection Law

By Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 23, 2016) – Changes to marriage laws are ready to be presented in Parliament, probably during the current session. On the eve of their presentations, the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Matrimonial (Clauses) Bill 2015 were discussed at a child protection workshop in Port Moresby yesterday.

These Bills when passed by Parliament will be vital for the implementation of Children Protection Law, or Lukautim Pikinini Law, because they correlate.

Religion, Youth and Community Development Secretary Anna Solomon told provincial welfare officers about the Child Protection law, and briefly explained that her department and stakeholders were not looking at the children alone but family as a whole and the issues that affect children.

Currently, there is no definition of marriage applicable to both customary and non-customary marriages. Thus, a definition is required to ensure that all marriages regardless, meet certain basic requirements regarding consent and marriage age before they are legally valid. Proposed clauses 2A and 2B of Matrimonial (Clauses) Bill achieve this purpose.

The changes also synchronised the age of a child (18 years) with the Lukautim Pikinini Act 2015 that was passed by Parliament this year.

The proposed changes deal with minors who are being forced to marry before the age of 18. The penalty for the offender range from a fine of K10,000 [US$3200] to K20,000 [US$6400] and jail terms of five and seven years.

Ms Solomon noted that the civil registry will only recognise first customary marriages but will recognise children as those who have not yet turned 18 years old, that is, in the best interest of the child – that in itself is child protection.

The new laws also recognise the effort of the stay-home spouse - either man or woman - in caring of the household. "We are now recognising that service and have strengthened that in the best interest of our children," Ms Solomon added.

"Some of the custody considerations outlined are for courts to consider parental responsibility. Many of our women or spouses who are not working are left very vulnerable when there is a marriage breakup. And not only are they left vulnerable but are left with all other issues, they really have nowhere to go."

Under the proposed law, a spouse’s indirect contributions as home-maker to the economic stability and security of the family, including in particular the acquisition of the property, will be recognised. The court is required to take into account any financial and non-financial contribution made by a party to the marriage.

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