South Australia state government blocks bill to prevent forced child marriages
A BID to better protect South Australian children from being taken overseas for forced marriages has failed after the State Government blocked it.
Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson had put proposed laws to Parliament to enforce a penalty of up to 19 years in jail for people who take a child overseas to be forced into marriage.
However, Government MPs voted against the Bill this morning and it was rejected 19 to 15.
Labor backbencher Nat Cook stressed that the Government was opposed to child marriage but argued that existing federal laws adequately covered the issue.
“Personally, it makes me feel sick to think about the pain and terror and sadness that victims (of child marriage) must go through,” she said.
“(But) the Commonwealth criminal code already contains offences relating to forced marriage, both when they involve a child and when they involve a person over the age of 18.
“Indeed, the Commonwealth provisions cover a broader range of conduct associated with forced marriage (than Ms Sanderson’s Bill).”
Ms Sanderson argued that strengthening the state law would have helped increase awareness of the problem and made it easier for authorities to take action quickly.
She was prompted to put forward the legislation after hearing of at least two cases of South Australian girls feared at risk of being taken out of the state to be married.
Her proposed changes would have enabled police or the head of the state’s child protection department to apply to a court to prevent a child from being taken out of the state, temporarily remove the child’s passport or interview the child if it was suspected they were at risk of forced marriage.
Those who took a child out of the state to be married, or attempted to, would face up to 15 years in jail.
Where a child was aged 12 years or younger, the penalty would be up to 19 years in jail.
Similar changes have been made to state law to protect children at risk of genital mutilation.
Federal laws impose a jail term of up to four years for forced marriages conducted in Australia, or seven years if the victim is aged under 18.
The penalty is up to 25 years if a minor is trafficked overseas.
The Australian Federal Police investigated 20 matters of suspected forced marriage in Australia in the first nine months of last year.
Eight were in NSW, seven in Victoria, four in Queensland and one in South Australia.
Eleven of the investigations involved persons under the age of 18 years.
Original article courtesy of Perth Now