On the 26th of January 2002, I married the love of my life and the person whom I want to grow old with.
My father proudly walked me down the aisle.
Our reception later that evening with our family and friends was a joyous occasion.
Contrast my joyous occasion with the recent reports of a 12-year-old girl who in 2013, was married to a 23-year-old man in a religious ceremony performed by an Imam, allegedly with the blessing of her father in their home in the Hunter region of New South Wales.
Police have charged the 61-year-old with procuring a child under 14 for illegal sexual activity and being an accessory. Tragically, it is alleged that the father believes he has done nothing wrong and thought his daughter was deeply in love.
Apart from the obvious consent issues and the fact that the girl is a child, if these reports are correct then the father’s actions and his mentality are completely at odds with what is acceptable in Australia.
Underage and forced marriage is a practice that places people, mostly women and girls, at risk, and can result in harmful consequences, including emotional and physical abuse, restriction of movement and autonomy, and the loss of access to education.
Forcing women and girls to marry without their full and free consent is a human rights violation.
Underage or forced marriage can never be justified by culture or religion. Let us be clear that this practice is often about abuse, subjugation and the exploitation of young girls or vulnerable women.
It is commonly associated with the threat of violence, and sometimes even death.
In 2013, a child custody case revealed an Australian school girl was married off to a 21-year-old groom by her parents and endured years of violence and abuse before walking out with her daughter.
Once the young girl was married and moved in to the man’s outer-Sydney home she was locked inside and let out only to attend high school.