Judges will need training to spot forced marriage - charity

  • Updated
  • 09/08/2018

A migrant charity says Family Court judges will need training to spot forced marriages after a new law was passed to crack down on the practice.

While marriage under the age of 16 is illegal in New Zealand, 16- and 17-year-olds have been able to marry if they have their parents' permission - against United Nations advice.

On Wednesday, a Private Member's Bill sponsored by National MP Jo Hayes was passed, meaning 16- and 17-year-olds must instead get permission from a Family Court judge to get married.

Mengzhu Fu, the national youth coordinator for migrant charity Shakti told The AM Show it's important to see the marriages not as a cultural practice, but abuse.

"It's not necessarily their culture, I would say it's a human rights abuse, and for young people it's really difficult especially if they're 16 and 17," she said.

"Over the 70 cases that we've had about half of them were at that age. It's really important to understand that this is a form of gender-based violence."

Ms Fu said its important family court judges receive training around the context for the marriages.

"It is really important for the judges in this country [now] the Bill is passed to have some training around the cultural context, be able to better detect [a forced marriage]," she said.

"Cultural diversity in New Zealand is growing and I think it's really important for organisations like Shakti that have been working on this issue for the past nine years to have some input around how these marriages that are forced are detected."

The crackdown on the practice will help minority communities, the Government says.

Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan told Newshub those most affected by the practice of forced marriage have been too afraid to speak out.

"These are communities that often already feel marginalised and so talking about issues that don't reflect favourably on them has the potential to make them even more marginalised," she said.

She also said forced marriage is not just a cultural issue.

"It's not a cultural practice - there are many groups within those cultures [and] communities that are fighting against it as well, and it's a form of violence."