A new report, called Just Married, Just a Child, Child Marriage in the Indo-Pacific Region, by Plan International Australia shows that every year, child brides as young as 10 years of age are married off forcefully in Australia and Indo-Pacific region. Almost 14 million child marriages take place every year with the count of 39,000 girl child below the age of 18 being married off every single day.
Plan Chief Executive Ian Wishart said that the girls are often taken overseas for the marriage; they may or may not return immediately and that they may return many years later.
He said, "Teachers will often report that a young girl simply doesn't return to school after semester break and it's very difficult to establish why, but she's just disappeared."
Two hundred fifty cases of children being forcefully married have been identified by the Children's and Youth Law Centre. In New South Wales, the Immigrant Women's Health Service reported 60 child marriages.
A 14-year-old girl, who said that she had been married to an older man, tried to pursue her education after marriage, but in vain. Her husband would burn her homework and made her quit school. Mr Wishart said that there are parents who still have very strong stereotypes for their girls, and there are parents who still think their children are owned, more or less, like property, and that these two beliefs will drive those parents to take those decisions.
Mr Wishart has requested that the federal government and United Nations work towards ending child marriage. He added that there was a huge social, emotional and economic cost associated with child marriage and that they are often victims of domestic violence.
An estimated 65 per cent, 47 per cent, 41 per cent and 40 per cent of girls under 18 are married off in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Afghanistan, respectively.
Mr Wishart explained, "There's a damaging health impact. Many of these girls have early pregnancies before their bodies are really able to cope. They have early and often frequent pregnancies, before they are 20 they may have three or four children and several miscarriages. And that puts many of them not only at a health risk, but at life risk."