Monday, 10 March 2014

Forced Marriage in Australia

The issue of forced marriage happening in Australia has reared its ugly head recently, with the case of a child being 'married' to a 26-year-old man.  The case came to light when the 'husband' attempted to enrol his 'wife' in school. The imam who celebrated the 'marriage' has been charged, as has the 26 year-old man.

Until this case hit the headlines, many Australians would have vehemently protested the notion that forced marriage happens here in Australia. "There are laws preventing such a thing happening." "That only happens in 3rd world countries!" "No one would do that to a child!" and so on.

But it does happen, it has been happening and it will continue to happen unless people are educated and more are willing to take a stand.

The Marriage Act expressly states that a couple being wed must be aged 18 or over, unless a court has waived that rule for one or other of the couple. And the Slavery Act just on a year ago was specifically changed to outlaw forced marriage in Australia.

And yet it still happens. At a forum held at the NSW Parliament a number of advocates against forced marriage called for increased education on the subject, for students and for religious leaders. Young women need to be educated in human rights and the laws of the land, as do the religious leaders who hold sway in their communities.

Over 14 million girls are forced in to marriage each year according to the charity, Plan International. This is an appalling, shocking statistic. Education and awareness raising, community and generational change may, in years to come, save some of these girls.

Child marriage in India, Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons