In an article published in the Sun Herald in March this year, Emma Partridge reports in an article titled “Hotline plan to help hidden child brides” that there are at least 60 child brides living in South West Sydney and many more girls are destined to be forced into underage marriage.
Partridge reports that Eman Sharobeen works with teenage girls in Fairfield and Liverpool and Cabramatta. Many of them have been married in the past 3 years.
Partridge relays Sharobeen’s view that forced and under aged marriages would not stop until immigrants receive education the moment they step onto Australian soil. If they were not educated about Australian values and laws, new Australians would continue to be taught by already settled communities who encourage the illegal and archaic practice she says.
To my mind what she says rings true as immigrants are more likely to be influenced by the beliefs and practices of those around them in their local community and if underage marriages are condoned by their community then they are likely to continue.
Dr Sharobeen who is the manager of Immigrant Women’s Health Services in Fairfield said under age marriage was carried out by many cultures across Asia, India and the Middle East and had nothing to do with religion.
Of the 60 cases she was aware of the in the past 3 years, 20 of the girls had come to the Fairfield Centre asking for help.
Once the girls were married and they were under intense pressure from their communities to remain where they were. Dr Sharobeen says “If they leave they will be called sluts, home wreckers and accused of destroying the family.”
Dr Sharobeen wishes to set up a bilingual hotline so that young girls can ask for help in relation to such abuse.
Currently the 24 hour hotline is supported by Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward.
In February a 26 year old man was charged over an illegal marriage to a 12 year old girl. The girl’s father has also been charged.
Dr Sharobeen reports that although the act of forced marriage was criminalised in Australia last year, the law has had little practical effect. She states “Education is the key to stopping this.”
Dr Sharobeen has stopped many parents from taking their children overseas to marry by alerting the Australian Federal Police and adding the names of the children to the Airport Watch List.
She also recently helped to annul the marriage of a 16 year old Pakistani girl who was married against her will.
She says she has to be careful with what she reports to maintain the trust of her patients and to ensure people allow their daughter and wives to visit the centre.
If you have questions about marriage, including under aged marriage or also if you have questions about potentially making an application for a child to be placed on the Airport Watch List, please contact us at Armstrong Legal where we specialise in family law and you can have an initial obligation free appointment.