AUCKLAND (KANIVA TONGA) — Some marriages in Tonga are lasting only two weeks.

The revelation that some couples only stay together for a fortnight came from the Minister of Justice, Samiu Kuita Vaipulu, who told Parliament recently that the number of divorces had risen.

The news came as Tonga’s wedding season approaches.

Many families plan throughout the year for a wedding in the weeks leading up to Christmas and relatives and friends fly in from overseas for the celebration.

Tonga has also been a popular wedding destination for some overseas visitors.

However, the statistics show that all is not well with Tonga’s newly married couples.

Vaipulu told Parliament that court figures showed that some Tongans re-married after seven years together.

However, instead of waiting for seven years before looking for a new spouse, some couples waited only weeks.

According to the statistics some couples split less than 28 days of the marriage. This included marriages which had been registered with the government but were waiting for letters of confirmation from Church ministers who conducted the weddings.  This meant some couples divorced before the letters confirming their marriage arrived.

The Minister told Parliament that when he was working as a lawyer, he increased his legal fees for divorce applications from TP$300 to TP$1000 (US$ 128 – $425), but people still paid his fees.

Vaipulu told the House the statistics for 2020/2021 showed the number of divorces by couples aged between 20 and 30 rose from 205 in the previous year to 245.

MPs expressed their concern at the figures, with one saying he had thought that Christianity and better education should help decrease the rate. 

The number of underage or child marriages, with 68 weddings in 2020/21, also caused concern.

The phenomenon of underage marriages in Tonga has been a major concern for several years.

While parents can give their consent for the marriages to make them legal, the widespread view is that young people should finish school and not marry until they are of legal age.

In 2017 women’s advocate Vanessa Heleta told RNZ there were 56 child marriages in 2015 and 51 in 2016.

“It’s really saddened my heart. I don’t think it’s right. This day and age we should not encourage child marriages,” she said.

Pregnancies led to such marriages, and young girls were even pressured to get married if they were simply seen or perceived to be with boys, she said.

In 2016 Kaniva News reported Deputy Speaker of Tonga’s Parliament, Lord Tuʻiʻāfitu as saying that he was shocked by child marriage in the Kingdom. He said that in the previous three years 183 child marriages had been recorded in Tonga.

He said the Parent Consent Act 1926, which gave parents power to allow their children to marry, was “embarrassing.”

UNICEF has condemned the practise of child marriages, saying they interfered with a girl’s development with early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence…. PACNEWS

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