Alicia Wood Political Reporter
The Daily Telegraph
February 12, 2014
HUNDREDS of under age teenagers are living in unregistered de facto marriages in NSW — and pressure is mounting for state and federal authorities to investigate illegal unions.
The statistics came as NSW Women’s Minister Pru Goward urged anyone with information on girls under the age of consent being married off to older men to report such incidents. In NSW, three children aged 14, 30 children aged 15, 152 aged 16 and 483 aged 17 identified themselves as living in a de facto marriage in the 2011 census.
MOSQUE DISMISSES IMAM WHO MARRIED OFF 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg warned last night that de facto relationships involving teenage girls were detrimental to their psychological health.
“There’s an increased likelihood of these young people developing anxiety and mood disorders or depression,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these kids become potentially suicidal.”
In metropolitan Sydney, the local government areas with the highest number of unregistered teenage de facto marriages are Blacktown and Penrith, with 23 each, Campbelltown with 17, and Liverpool with 12.
In Blacktown, there were seven 16-year-olds and 16 children aged 17 who identified themselves as living in a de facto marriage.
In regional areas, the problem is more stark. In Wyong, Wollongong and Dubbo, six 15-year-olds in each local government area said they were in de facto marriages, and all three 14-year-olds who said they were de facto marriages live in Young.
The figures come to light amid intense public outrage at the arrest of a 26-year-old man over child sex allegations after his alleged marriage to a 12-year-old girl.
Eman Sharobeem from the Immigrant Women’s Health Service said hundreds of children as young as 11 were being sent overseas to be married after being “shopped” on Facebook. “It’s far more prevalent and well-known than people think,” she said.
Dr Sharobeem said not enough was being done to build awareness about under age marriage. “Regulation needs to be put in place within different religions,” she said. “If we are talking about Australian law, every marriage should be under Australian law,”
“There needs to be proper, culturally appropriate, education and awareness-raising. And we should make it as compulsory as we can.”
Ms Goward has written to federal counterpart Michaelia Cash to push for national awareness campaigns on underage and forced marriage.