Judge calls for new laws to help young forced into marriage
NEW laws may be needed to help young people placed in arranged or forced marriages, a Supreme Court judge has said.
The system for seeking exemptions from the legal age limit for marriage may also need to be reviewed as it raises child welfare questions, according to Mr Justice John MacMenamin of the Supreme Court.
Judge MacMenamin raised the possibilities of new laws as it emerged that a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 29-year-old man – both of whom are from the Islamic faith – was annulled by court order.
Serious concerns remain for the welfare of the Pakistani-born girl, who was later taken to Egypt by her mother despite a court order restraining her removal from Ireland.
The marriage took place in an Islamic centre in 2010 and was annulled in September 2011 due to lack of "full, free and informed consent" on behalf of the teen. The girl, known only as R, had a brief acquaintance with her intended husband before the marriage.
Persons aged under 18 must get the permission of the Circuit Family Court or the High Court to get married. Before the ceremony, two applications were made to exempt the girl from the age restriction and from the requirement to give three months' notice of intention to marry.
The first was refused but the second was granted.
The girl's teachers, the HSE and gardai became involved in the case when the girl ran away from home.
The HSE applied to have the girl placed in care, where she remained before returning to her family.
Efforts to contact the girl, who is not an Irish citizen and is now over age so her return cannot be sought, have been obstructed.
Judge MacMenamin said that bearing in mind the increased cultural and religious diversity in Irish society, the status and rights of children and the institution of marriage, legislation may be necessary to address and support the position of very young people in such situations.
Judge MacMenamin said the actions of the girl's family, described as conservative and traditionally minded Muslims, were "atypical" for this community.
Last night Dr Ali Selim, a senior staff member at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, said the centre had seen no evidence of forced marriages in Ireland.