Judge forbids girl, 14, to wed
The Daily Telegraph
September 15, 2010 12:00AM
A 14-YEAR-old girl has been banned from leaving Australia and has had to surrender her passport to save her from an arranged marriage.
Just days before the girl's father planned to whisk her overseas to marry a man she has never met, the Family Court ordered she must stay.
The Melbourne teenager is one of a number of Australian girls forced into arranged marriages overseas each year.
Her plight came to light when child protection officers received a report in June that the then-13-year-old had been taken out of school ahead of her intended marriage.
In a landmark decision published on Monday, the Family Court barred the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, from travelling abroad until she turns 18.
Federal Police were ordered to place the girl's name alongside the names of accused serious criminals and tax cheats on the official Watch List at departure points around the nation.
Her family, who are believed to be Muslims from the former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia, has had to surrender the girl's passport and cannot apply for a new one.
According to court documents, the girl had been interviewed by two child protection workers at her home while her parents were at work.
One of the officers said the girl told them she had been engaged for a month to a 17-year-old boy from another country but did not know what she felt about marrying him because she had never met him and had
only ever seen a photograph of him.
The officer said he formed the opinion the girl had not considered the prospect of having sex with her new husband or the possibility of being abused.
He said the girl indicated she had not discussed her feelings with her parents and did not know her mother's opinion of the marriage.
"It is my belief that it would not be in [the child's] best interests to travel ... to be married as she is a child and she does not appear to understand the consequences of marriage," the officer's affidavit concluded.
"Furthermore she would be deprived of a school education and she may be at risk of sexual exploitation and emotional harm."
Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Sherene Hassan said arranged child marriages were a perverse practice not mandated by Islam.
"According to Islamic law a woman must give her consent to marriage without any form of collusion," she said yesterday.
"Sadly there are some Muslims that fail to discern [the difference] between culture and religion."