As overseas travel resumes, authorities in Australia are concerned that this will lead to a spike in forced child marriages taking place abroad ABC News reports.
Forced into marriage abroad
Residing in Sydney, Kubra (not her real name) was engaged at just 11 years old and forced by her parents into marriage at the age of 16.
She travelled abroad for what she thought was going to be a family holiday. Instead, she was invited to her own wedding with no way to escape.”I refused to marry him but my fiance’s family threatened to harm me and took away my passport,” she said. Kubra went through with the marriage but eventually managed to get out of it once back in Australia by paying her fiancees family $30,000.
“Sold for cash”
Eleni Argy is a youth case worker at Taldumande, an organisation providing accommodation to teenagers who are being pressured into marriage against their will. She explained,
“There is financial gain. Money is exchanged, properties perhaps, and girls are literally being sold off. […] They can be groomed from a very young age, as young as six or seven.”
Australian Federal Police have received more than 80 reports of forced marriage over the past year, with about half involving minors under the age of 18. Data shows that New South Wales and Victoria are areas with the highest prevalence of forced marriage reports.
Though forced marriage has been a crime in Australia since 2013, there has yet to be a single conviction for this crime.
Remembering Ruqia Haidari
In 2020, Ruqia Haidari was murdered by a man she was forced to marry after she was allegedly sold to him by her mother for $15,000.
Within months of their marriage, Ruqia was killed. While the perpetrator of this crime was handed a 19-year sentence, Ruqia’s mother has pleaded not guilty to coercing her daughter into this fatal marriage. Her case is ongoing.
Difficulty in speaking out
For children who are being coerced or threatened by their parents and family members into marriage, it can be difficult to seek support. Some victims don’t feel comfortable speaking out against their families, and the implications of doing so are significant. It can lead to the complete dissolution of family relationships and ostracisation from communities, a daunting prospect for anyone and more so for a child.
Jennifer Burn, director of Anti-Slavery Australia at the University of Technology in Sydney, said “Many of those who force marriages onto others may genuinely want what’s best for their children and come to later regret their actions when they see the consequences on their child’s happiness.”
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