Protecting Children From Forced Marriages

If elected in March 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will introduce a bill to amend the Child Protection Act to enable a court to make protection orders if there is a reasonable suspicion that a child will be removed from the state for a forced marriage.

The Problem

Forced child marriage is a violation of children’s rights and constitutes child abuse.

Above all, forced child marriage is a form of violence against women and girls, and an issue resulting from cultural gender discrimination.

Often this practice involves a family or family member forcing their child to marry someone located overseas, depriving the child of her basic rights to safety, health, education and equality.

In 2015/2016, 69 incidents of forced marriage were investigated by the Australian Federal Police.

Although Federal laws outlawed child marriage in 2013, states can and should take further action to protect at risk children, particularly girls.

With increasing numbers of children being taken out of Australia to marry, further powers for South Australian law enforcement are required to complement the Federal laws to ensure children are not removed from Australia to be forced into a
marriage overseas.

Our multicultural women’s services are struggling with this issue and are seeking state legislative assistance to protect our girls.

The State Liberals' Plan

If elected in March 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will introduce a bill to amend the Child Protection Act to enable a court to make protection orders if there is a reasonable suspicion that a child will be removed from the state for a forced marriage.

In many cases teachers and principals are the first to be alerted to potential marriages and travel arrangements.

These laws will allow action to be taken before children are removed from the state and become victims, and before federal authorities are alerted.

Consistent to similar protections with cases of suspected female genital mutilation, specific protection measures proposed include periodic interviewing of the child, and keeping the child from being forcibly removed from the state to be married by holding their passport and alerting authorities.

Further, anyone who took a child out of the state for a forced marriage, or attempted to, would face a maximum penalty of 19 years’ imprisonment.

These changes to the law will increase awareness that children are being forced into marriage and also provide law enforcement with greater tools to prevent at-risk children, particularly girls, from being married off whilst underage and without their consent.

Part of our plan for SA