Marriage officers in Region Six were engaged in a seminar recently at the Boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), New Amster-dam, to sensitize them on the Marriage Act, the importance and benefits of marriage counseling, and the religious aspect of matrimony.
The seminar was hosted by the General Register Office (GRO), which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in order to ensure that the solemnisation of marriages is being carried out according to the laws of Guyana, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said in a release.
Delivering the feature address, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee said that the objective of the seminar is to help marriage officers to be more au fait with the rules governing marriages.
“As marriage officers you are expected to comply with the legal aspects of marriages, this is why the GRO, which is the regulatory body, under the Marriage Act Ch.5:01 of the laws of Guyana has always endeavoured to ensure that marriage officers are aware of their responsibilities to comply with the laws,” Rohee is quoted by GINA as saying.
The Marriage Act provides for the legal and religious aspects of marriages, whether or not that marriage is based on Hindu, Islamic, or Christian faiths. The legal requirement under Section Four of the Act provides for the appointment of marriage officers by the Home Affairs Minister.
The minister urged all marriage officers to have a copy of the Marriage Act in their possession so as to enable them to be properly guided in executing their duties.
The Marriage Act states also that should any marriage officer fail to fully execute his/her duties in accordance with the Act, the minister is authorised to cancel the appointment of that officer on good cause.
And in the case of a Christian marriage, it is necessary for banns to be published or licences are sought via a petition to the Home Affairs Minister. These requirements are also stipulated under the Act.
Similarly in the case of marriages under Hindu or Islamic rites and customs, it is necessary for notices of the intended marriages to be published by the officiating priests.
Meanwhile, Minister Rohee lamented that there have been reports where marriage officers have been publishing notices of marriages and banns for persons who were not residing in the country on the date of the publication.
He reminded that the law states that anyone who knowingly solemnises a marriage in which the rules were not adhered to as it relates to the due publication of banns or licence of marriage shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to a prison sentence of two years.
Rohee said also that there are instances where marriage officers publish banns or notices without verifying the age of the petitioners. In this case he said, children under the age of 16 (legal age of consent) have their marriages solmenised, an act that is contrary to the marriage law.
However, the law provides for a female under the age of 16, who becomes pregnant or has delivered a child, to apply by way of petition to a judge of the High Court for permission to marry under that age to a person not being under the age of 16, unless he admits to being the father of the child.
The minister noted that the Sexual Offences Act 2010, also makes provisions for this instance. However, this new legislation states that “where any law is in conflict or inconsistent with any provisions of this Act, then the provisions of this Act shall prevail.”
He also appealed to those marriage officers who request fees that are way beyond the affordability of minimum wage earners, to desist from doing so.