American Samoa senator defends keeping marital age at 14

American Samoan lawmakers were considering teenage pregnant girls when they voted against raising the marriage age to 18, according to the acting president of the Senate.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua told KHJ News the main reason why senators decided to leave the age at 14 was out of consideration for girls who got into trouble and became pregnant.

He said their parents want them to get married so their baby will have a father.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga said the Senate was not advocating for girls to marry at a young age nor to get pregnant and get married.

However he conceded that perhaps senators were hasty in making a decision which resulted in a 9-7 vote against the bill.

Representative Fialupe Fiaui Lutu, who sponsored the bill, has vowed to reintroduce it in the next session of the Fono in July.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga said he would take another look at the legislation and hear the pros and cons from other parties.

Before the senate turned down the bill, the Senate only heard from one witness, senate counsel Mitzie Jessop Taase, who pointed to the contradiction between the marriage age and the law on statutory rape which makes it a crime to have sex with a girl under 16.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga said if the bill did come before the Fono again he would recommend more witnesses be called to give their opinons.