Joanne Hayes, a National MP in New Zealand is calling for immigration to immediately stop approving partnership visas for overseas children, citing the risk of endorsing forced marriages.
Hayes previously pushed for a law change to require 16 and 17 year olds in New Zealand to get permission from a Family Court judge before marrying — but children abroad are exempt from this requirement.
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Her new concern about forced marriages involving children abroad followed the revelation the New Zealand Immigration approved 20 partnership visas to 16 and 17 year olds married or engaged to people living in or migrating to New Zealand since 2009.
Stuff NZ reports:
An INZ spokesman said as long as a marriage was legally recognised in the country where it took place, INZ could grant a partnership visa without approval from the Family Court.
Hayes said she is closely reading the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill because she believed it applied to all people younger than 18.
“I’m pretty disappointed with INZ and thought they would be more aware of the work the women MPs had been doing leading up to the passing of the child marriage bill.”
If Hayes’ review found a loophole in the law that allowed for the marriage of minors to be recognised in New Zealand without a Family Court judge signing them off, she would push for the legislation to be amended to close it.
“I’m concerned of the consequences of a rise in violence towards the child from her husband, the impact that we have already seen and heard about of child brides and from young women who were child brides,” added Hayes.
She says New Zealand Immigration should only approve partnership visas if a New Zealand Family Court judge was satisfied the child had not been coerced into the marriage.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the ministry had signed an agreement to work with other government departments to support victims of forced marriage.