Child Brides in Australia
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to ‘free and full’ consent to a marriage, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) prohibits child marriage. However, every year, it is estimated that 14 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriage with little or no say in the union.
While this practise is prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, it is a practise occurring in many developing countries including the UK, France and Australia. In a recent Family Law case, the Judge was told of a 14 year old girl from Western Sydney that was married off by her parents. The Court was told how the girl was forced to drop out from school and had endured years of family violence. The young girl fell pregnant at 17 years old and gave birth to a daughter, who is now the subject of the Family Court proceedings. The young mother told the Court that the father had threatened to marry off their daughter once she turned 14. In his judgement, the Judge invited the AFP to investigate the issues raised in this matter including the forced marriage (see more http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/forced-to-wed-at-14-woman-walks-out-after-years-of-abuse-from-violent-husband/story-fni0fee2-1226739261960).
As it was the case for this young girl, the statistics show that a significant number of child brides are prevented from pursuing education and are often subjected to violence and abuse. As family lawyers, we are often called upon to represent and advise clients in matters that involve family violence or abuse. We take these matters very seriously and understand the need to act quickly and decisively whenever there is a threat to the personal safety of a client or family member.
If anyone believes they, or someone they know, is a child bride, been forced into marriage, potentially at risk of violence or abuse they should seek immediate advice and assistance from the police. Experienced family lawyers can then provide assistance with ensuring their long-term safety and resolving the issues surrounding their family break-down or, in some cases, determining the most appropriate solution for a child’s ongoing care.
At Coleman Greig we have a team of dedicated, empathetic and experienced family lawyers, as well as senior lawyers who are members of the Panel of Independent Children’s Lawyers in NSW and can represent the specific interests of children in a family dispute.
Please, don’t leave it too late. Seek help and advice to stop the cycle of violence and ensure the future safety of our children. For further information contact our experienced family lawyers on (02) 9635 6422.