GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A Guyana judge's decision to allow the marriage of a 15-year-old girl to the man accused of raping and getting her pregnant has riled the South American country.
Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that the couple could marry on humanitarian grounds after the girl became pregnant after her parents petitioned the court to authorize the union, saying they had given up trying to persuade her to return home. They said in their petition that the next best thing was to allow her to marry.
Activists said Wednesday that they were researching Guyana's laws to determine whether Chang's ruling is legal.
"This country has become a circus and a very dangerous place for children. They ought to have rights and be entitled to protection," said Karen DeSouza, spokeswoman for Red Threat, a leading women rights' organization.
The ruling was issued on Sept. 24, but became public this week after one of the attorneys involved in the case talked with local media. The couple wed on Oct. 11 after a court granted them a marriage license. The Associated Press generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
The girl's 38-year-old husband is still facing statutory rape charges. A judge has postponed his hearing until next month while seeking advice on how to proceed, given the high court ruling. The man could face at least five years in prison if found guilty.
Religious groups and other organizations successfully petitioned Guyana's government in 2005 to increase the age of consent to 16.
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