Putting an end to forced marriage in Australia

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According to Human Rights Watch, 14 million girls are married, worldwide, each year – with some as young as eight or nine. While early and forced marriage appears most prevalent in countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, several recent cases have shown Australia is not immune to the practise.

If the global trend continues, Human Rights Watch estimates that 142 million children will be married by 2020.

Snapshot of Australia

There is no Australian research on the prevalence of forced marriage but the issue was brought to the fore following several recent high-profile family court cases.

A 2010 case involving a 13 year-old Victorian girl began when her school alerted the state’s child protection service that she was not attending school. The school suggested the girl’s absence may be due to her parents preparing her for marriage to a fiance they had chosen for her – a 17 year-old living overseas.

Consequently, the Department of Human Services initiated proceedings in the Family Court that eventually resulted in the court ordering the girl not be removed from Australia before she turned 18. The court also ordered that her passport be surrendered, that her parents be restrained from applying for another passport on her behalf and that her name be placed on the Australian Federal Police watchlist until her 18th birthday.

Written By: Jennifer Burn
continue to source article at theconversation.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. This is thoroughly admirable. The rights of children must be extended and better supported in certain key areas. Education, health, justice. Ownership (no less) by parents, through to 18 must be seen to stage a clearer and more measured retreat maybe from eleven years onwards say.

    Ownership of children must be far better tempered than it currently is, not only ownership by parents but also by default by communities, who don’t have (should never have) any legal status anyway. The state has a responsibility to deliver all its services to individuals and it must make better endeavours to reach through communities, and families in thrall to their community, to the individuals whose life chances and health may be frittered else.

    18 is too late.

    • In reply to #1 by phil rimmer:

      While I agree with the sentiment of your comment, I’m not sure “ownership of children” is the right term. Children are people too, not property. Parents provide care and support, the necessities of life, etc. But a child’s own human rights trump any dictates of their parents.

      • In reply to #5 by ShadowMind:

        In reply to #1 by phil rimmer:

        the ownership of chidren

        The term was meant to provoke entirely your reaction. Thank you for it. As a parent the term never once entered my head as describing my relationship with my children. They had no say in being summoned into being, as it were, so the obligations are all mine and my wife’s.

        • In reply to #6 by phil rimmer:
          >

          the ownership of chidren

          Precisely. The old chattel mentality is still relevant. Children are property under the US system; perhaps not explicitly but in practice. The assumption that children are property allows for all manner of physical and emotional abuse. There is some kind of superstitious notion that this ownership is a moral imperative, overriding all else. Many people think it is better to be raised by a psychopathic, drug-addled sadist, than one’s grandparents or even a foster home. In the circumcision debate I respect many arguments, but my skin crawls when people use the ‘it’s my kid’ argument. Society dragged its feet recognizing the harms corporal punishment, because the child is property. In some American communities, sexual abuse is ignored by the state as an internal family matter.

          Chattel law still exists for the womenfolk too. Where I grew up, if one assaulted a stranger on the street, the state would press charges even if the victim declined. However, one could hospitalize their wife and the state would not step in unless she pressed charges. Anyone familiar with the dynamics of these situations (or anyone who thinks about it for a full minute) can see why this is entirely backwards.

        • In reply to #6 by phil rimmer:

          In reply to #5 by ShadowMind:

          In reply to #1 by phil rimmer:

          the ownership of chidren

          >

          The term was meant to provoke entirely your reaction. Thank you for it. As a parent the term never once entered my head as describing my relationship with my children. They had no say in being summoned into bei…

          I like your comment.Too many people consider their children to be their property and dictate to them at every turn.I know many parents who think that their children owe them forever because they brought them into the world.As you say, children have no say in being brought into existence and they are individuals with minds of their own, so we are obligated to do the best we can for them and leave them to live their lives according to their own lights.

          • In reply to #10 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

            Exactly so.

            The enlightened and responsible parent will know to set age appropriate boundaries for their sprog. Stay away from traffic and traffickers, Catholic Priests, Republicans and Ignorance etc. Your child’s risks and potential woes may be numerous but your firm help in minimising these will be forgiven in later years.

            Apart from these dutiful impositions we should not be adding to their burdens. Their happiness and successful independence is our only decent goal.

            I would love to see a survey of parental attitudes on the obligations of children. I wonder how the US would stand up compared to Northern Europe or Australia, for instance? How would the religious contrast to atheists?

          • In reply to #12 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #10 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

            Exactly so.

            I would love to see a survey of parental attitudes on the obligations of children. I wonder how the US would stand up compared to Northern Europe or Australia, for instance? How would the religious contrast to atheists?

            Despite Australia being a multicultural society forced marriage isn’t common here. This is somewhat surprising because most adults prefer disallowing children any formal recognition of their human rights. In recent years polls usually indicate about 80-85% of respondents oppose extending any formal human rights to kids because it would dilute parental ownership rights.

            Aussie political correctness dictates parental rights must prevail. Blind acceptance of biblical child-training traditions which allow for the parental use of the rod is the norm here. Dozens of more progressive countries like Bulgaria and Kenya, or Honduras, Nicaragua and Albania have legislated to protect children. New Zealand have done so too. The western countries who oppose children’s rights also oppose gay marriage it seems. Curious that. Also curious that they fret so much about what those Muslamofascists might be doing to their kids or womenfolk.

            Legislating to protect kids would help solve this problem. It has done so already in countries that cared enough to act. Under the terms of the treaty Australia signed we were obligated to enact suitable protective legislation by 2009 but we have yet to do so. Too busy watching the fence for intruders wearing towels on their heads.

            http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

            More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history—192 countries had become State Parties to the Convention as of November 2005.
            The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified this celebrated agreement. (I think Somalia has now ratified this treaty)

  2. I have often thought that potential immigrants to western countries should be checked thoroughly in their home countries, at embassies or consulates, and each member should be interviewed separately, where an explanation of the customs and laws of the target country would be explained. The parents would be especially cautioned re FGM and forced marriages, and maybe even freedom from religion as it relates to children. Anyone not signing that they understand and agree to the rules is not allowed in. If the parents sign, and are found later in the target country to have broken the rules, they would be deported, and their families left behind to blend into the new society..

    • In reply to #2 by rod-the-farmer:

      I have often thought that potential immigrants to western countries should be checked thoroughly in their home countries,

      Yes. Signing a form would not work. People just sign without reading or understanding. Perhaps a verbal checklist warning them of the differences that would likely cause most friction. You also should have a pamphlet “What you need to know to emigrate from Kenya to Canada”. That would be given ahead of time, and would much more likely be read.

  3. Why is there child marriage?

    1. It is a way of ensuring your bride has no sexually transmitted disease.
    2. it gives the families control of who marries whom, and hence control of inherited wealth and family alliances.
    3. it thrives in patriarchal societies that give no weight to the wishes of females.
    4. it ensures no fertile years are wasted.
    5. it is an institutionalised form of pedophilia.
    6. it ensures brides come unencumbered with children of other males.

    The late Ken Keyes argued that people do terrible things with the best of intentions. To get them to behave better, you have to give them alternate ways of getting those intentions met.

    These people imagine that maximum fertility is mandatory. They come from cultures where most infants and children die. They have to understand that Canada and Australia have low IMRs. They don’t need to breed so furiously. They have to learn than financial survival is not nearly so precarious. Children can safely make mistakes.

    Virginity is no longer necessary to ensure a bride is free of STDs.

    In this particular case, it highly unlikely the parties were long-time Australians. They surely came from some society where it was accepted custom. Someone was being overly politically correct by hiding that information.

  4. This surprised me for a moment, since the headline suggested the families in question were either white Australian citizens or Native Australians, neither of which (to my knowledge) has a history of forced child-marriages. But then it became clear it was in fact immigrants from those countries which DO have such a history. Presumably Pakistan or one of the African or Middle Eastern countries. The countries that force girl children to marry are the same countries that abuse and kill them for the slightest infraction, and I applaud the Australian government for taking action against the practice.

    • In reply to #8 by justinesaracen:

      This surprised me for a moment, since the headline suggested the families in question were either white Australian citizens or Native Australians, neither of which (to my knowledge) has a history of forced child-marriages. But then it became clear it was in fact immigrants from those countries which DO have such a history. Presumably Pakistan or one of the African or Middle Eastern countries. The countries that force girl children to marry are the same countries that abuse and kill them for the slightest infraction, and I applaud the Australian government for taking action against the practice.

      Exactly my reaction. I kept reading to find a clue to the ethnicity of the victim and found myself waylaid by one of the more egregious instances of political correctness/cultural relativism driven obfuscation I’ve seen in the media of late; notice how the article bends over backward to avoid mentioning the victim’s country of origin:

      “Ms Kreet’s parents told her she was to travel to their home country…”, “But when Ms Kreet returned to Australia”, “In the 2010 case, the court had the power to prevent the girl leaving Australia, but such protective powers cease when the person turns 18″

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