Stopping forced marriages

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

After hearing of a distraught school girl forced to marry by her parents, National MP Jackie Blue knew she couldn’t stand by and do nothing.

The 100 teenagers – most of them school girls – who marry each year in New Zealand would require a court’s permission to walk down the aisle under Dr Blue’s proposed amendment to the Marriage Act.

Marriage under the age of 16 is illegal in New Zealand, but 16 and 17-year-olds can marry with parental consent.

More than 1000 teenagers gained consent to marry over the past decade, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Four out of five of those were female.

Dr Blue said only a small number of teenage nuptials would be marriages forced upon girls for cultural reasons.

“The majority are probably quite legitimate, but the majority of those minors are young girls. I can’t not do anything. If it saves one young girl it’s going to be worth it.”

I think this is a good idea. A 16 or 17-year-old is still officially a minor and is far more likely to be able to be coerced by their parents.

Yes some 16 and 17 years olds want to marry on their own initiative. But I don’t think the proposed change really disadvantages them. Either they merely have to wait until they are 18 (they can be engaged until then) or they get the permission of the court which will check the marriage is truly desired.

The idea I think is that it will discourage parents from forcing their child into an arranged marriage if they know a Judge will question their child on whether they really want it.

This is not a huge problem in NZ, but I don’t see the proposed law at having much downsides, and if it saves even a handful of young girls for a forced marriage then it is worthwhile.

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