31 January 2012

Forced marriages: A New Zealand visa or disgrace and deportation

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Recent reports of a 17-year-old Wellington girl who was threatened with deportation unless she married a distant relative have sparked outrage from both international and local charities.

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Reports of marriage being forced upon the young woman under threat of deportation has sparked outrage.

The unidentified teenager's Muslim immigrant parents became concerned that their daughter was becoming too westernised and attempted to wed her to a distant relative. When she refused, the family threatened her with deportation, then, on the premise of having her sign New Zealand visa papers, conned her into signing marriage papers.

The young woman was then forced to go and live with her new husband and his family, who kept a tight watch on her for over two months. She managed to escape and contacted the police and ethnic women's charity Shakti.

A spokesperson for Unicef New Zealand has condemned the forced marriage, calling it a serious violation of the woman's human rights. He cited a report for the Committee of Equal Opportunities for Woman and Men from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which states:

"It is an outrage that, under the cloak of respect for the culture and traditions of certain communities, there are authorities which tolerate forced marriages although they violate the fundamental rights of each and every victim."

Unicef New Zealand has called for legislation to be introduced in New Zealand which would outlaw both forced and child marriages; while the case of this young woman may not be enough to involve the New Zealand immigration authorities, it is hoped that new legislation will make future cases similar to this one illegal.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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