Young brides ‘forced to wed’

NZ Herald 19 Jan 2013
Almost 800 girls under 18 were married in New Zealand in the past decade, and women’s rights activists believe a number of those marriages were against the will of the brides. It is not illegal for 16 and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent but activists suggest a number of those marriages are forced by the parents. Forced marriages are difficult for police and social services to detect and are often associated with physical, financial or psychological abuse. Government agencies said they knew they were happening. Shakti, which runs four refuges for Asian, African and Middle Eastern women in Auckland and Wellington, receives about 600 calls to its crisis line a month. Youth co-ordinator Shasha Ali said forced marriages mostly involved girls under 18.

….National MP Jackie Blue has drafted a private member’s bill which she hopes would help provide extra support for young women under pressure to marry. Dr Blue’s bill would make it illegal for anyone under 18 years old to wed without first formalising their consent before a Family Court judge. “I believe the majority of marriages under 18 are fine and above board, but this would just give an extra level of protection for those who are being forced to do it against their will,” she said. Dr Blue said her bill would not affect ethnic practices, such as arranged marriage. “This won’t affect this at all, an arranged marriage is a traditional practice and right up until the wedding, the bride can say no.”

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