Forced marriage bill passes first reading

The Herald reports:

A law change aiming to protect teenagers from forced marriages has passed its first hurdle – and a National MP says it will stop girls being “exported” to New Zealand.

A private member’s bill in the name of National MP Joanne Hayes passed its first reading in Parliament last night with backing from all parties.

It will require 16- and 17-year-olds who wish to marry to apply to the court and get the consent of a Family Court judge. Currently parental consent is needed in such cases.

A very useful safeguard. I suspect most people marrying at that age are do so through family pressure.

Hayes told Parliament child marriage and “are the most horrific culture practices that could happen”.

“There are horrific stories that I have heard to do with forced marriage and child marriage that just absolutely sicken me, and we must ensure that they must stop here in New Zealand before they get legs and carry on,” said Hayes, who paid tribute to former National MP and now Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue, who introduced the bill to the member’s ballot in 2012.

Hayes said that between 2002 and 2011 there were 798 young brides in New Zealand, 388 of whom married overseas. About 80 16- and 17-year-olds marry a year.

“We know that some girls also are exported to New Zealand for the purposes of forced marriage. All this has to do with a fee to parents, a bit of a story given to the young woman who is told, ‘you come over here, you’ll get free education, we’ll look after you’.

“And they end up as slaves in an unwanted marriage and one that ends in violence, to the point that we hear stories of where young women lose their lives, and there is no justice for them.”

Terrible that this occurs.

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