Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sen. Sauitufuga Pita Suiaunoa suggests carrying out research to help with the Senate’s decision on a House bill that would raise the marrying age for females from the current 14 years old to 18 years of age.
The House measure was approved last month, before Tropical Storm Gita on Feb. 9th and introduced in the Senate this past Monday. It's assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai, during yesterday’s Senate Session, suggested a committee hearing on the measure.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie noted that senators could make a decision on the measure, with the assistance of Senate legal counsel, Mitzie Jessop Ta’ase, who can provide testimony or answer questions if senators have inquiries.
Jessop-Ta’ase, during her many years at the Attorney General’s Office that included a stint as Deputy AG, handled many high profile rape cases involving minor victims. She was behind the push for local laws addressing human trafficking (including minor female victims) and drafted the current local sex offender registration and notification act, to comply with federal law.
While no date was announced for a committee hearing, Sauitufuga suggested carrying out research on the issue. For example, how many females — aged 14 years — were married in the last 10 years.
He also suggested input from the American Samoa Bar Association, and if there are any current laws, which may conflict with the legislation, if enacted into law.
Provisions of local law pertaining to “Requisites of Marriage,” state in part that the male shall be at least 18 years old and the female at least 14 years of age. And if the female is less than 18 years old, she must have the consent of one of her parents or guardian.
The House-approved bill would raise the female marriage age to 18. In addition, if the male or female is under 18, but not younger than 16 years of age, both — male/female — must have the consent of a parent or guardian.
As previously reported by Samoa News, many local residents were surprised that current law allows females who are at least 14 years old to get hitched.
OTHER SENATE MATTERS
Representatives from the National Weather Service in Tafuna and the local Department of Homeland Security have been requested to appear tomorrow before a Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, to answer questions regarding advisories, warnings, and other important information that were issued prior and during Tropical Storm Gita.
There are concerns in the community that the advisories and warnings about the storm, which left behind devastation on Feb. 9th, didn’t go out in a timely manner and therefore, many residents weren’t made aware, in advance, of the approaching storm.
There were also issues with the Weather Service office, being without electricity for a period of time, during which the Honolulu weather office took over the distribution of information.