A Sydney woman, who attended Islamic colleges in Sydney’s west, says girls as young as 12 would be married off overseas and some were dropped off at school by husbands aged in their 30s.
Iraqi-born Bee al-Darraj, now 24, said she tried to report multiple counts of child marriage among her friends and relatives to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) without success.
She told News Corp she wrote to the AFP asking for something to be done to help girls she knew at school who had been taken out of Australia and married at 12 or 13, often to much older men, who were, in some cases, related to them.
Ms al-Darraj, who attended al-Faisal College in Auburn, said she was especially concerned for a girl who was married off at 13 and was “14 when she gave birth in a public hospital, with a 28-year-old father signing the birth certificate”.
“She was in school, but nothing was done until he started to beat her and then she was put in a safe house,” Ms al-Darraj said.
She said she knew girls who were 15 and were being dropped off at school by their 30-year-old husbands.
Last month, NSW Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard, declared the problem of child marriage as barbaric and cruel, saying it was rife in some communities.
The AFP confirmed it investigated 69 incidents of forced or underage marriage in 2015-16 financial year, up from 33 the previous year, but said there have been few successful prosecutions.
In a statement to News Corp the AFP said the girls central to Ms al-Darraj’s complaints were beyond the reach of Australian law because they were married before forced marriage was criminalised in 2013.
Ms al-Darraj said she had since contacted the AFP with more examples of forced marriages, but had been told to contact Triple-0.
The AFP confirmed this and said if someone is at risk of harm due to forced marriage they should contact police.
They said members of the public who had any information about people involved in forced marriage should contact Crime Stoppers.
Ms al-Darraj said she was disappointed by the response from authorities “because it’s child trafficking and they know it’s wrong, but it’s like they have no idea what to do”.
“And if the girls have already left Australia, they can’t do anything.”
Ghazwa Adra Khan, principal of al-Faisal High School, did not respond to New Corp questions about whether any of the students had, to her knowledge, left Australia to marry.