Child marriage in NZ: Teenage brides, grooms given visas to live with NZ-based spouses

New Zealand gov’t have previously refused to specifically outlaw Child Marriage here in New Zealand. Of course extended family approve, they too get NZ citizenship out of the deal:

Child marriage in NZ: Teenage brides, grooms given visas to live with NZ-based spouses

Immigration New Zealand has approved more than 20 partnership visas for child brides and grooms married or engaged to people living in or migrating to New Zealand during the past decade.

All of the brides and grooms were 16- or 17-years-old and most were from countries in the Middle East and Asia, according to information obtained by Stuff under the Official Information Act.

Last year, a 17-year-old Egyptian girl had her application approved so she could be with her 28-year-old Kiwi husband. In 2013, a 17-year-old bride-to-be from Pakistan was granted a partnership visa to live in New Zealand with her 28-year-old fiance, also from Pakistan.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has also approved about 70 partnership visas for people who were married or engaged to New Zealanders aged 16 or 17, since 2009, documents showed.

The figures concerned child rights and anti-domestic violence advocates.

INZ said in each case, the teenager’s parent(s) or guardian(s) supported the application.

But Mengzhu Fu, national youth co-ordinator for the ethnic women’s charity Shakti, said teenagers often reported being pressured into marriage by their parents.

Young migrant brides and grooms whose immigration status depended on their spouses were highly vulnerable to violence, especially if they had little understanding of English or New Zealand’s immigration system, she said.

“When there is coercion in these marriages, young women often suffer domestic and sexual violence, forced pregnancies and long-term trauma. If they want to leave a forced marriage, they often have to risk cutting ties with their whole family.”

Shakti’s national youth co-ordinator Mengzhu Fu with Shakti Youth’s handbook, Break Free.

Since 2010, 35 young teenagers who were forced or coerced into marriage had sought help from Shakti. The average age of victims was 16.

Fu said before granting partnership visas to minors INZ should conduct thorough, culturally-sensitive assessments to ensure all parties fully consented.

Human rights lawyer Frances Joychild QC said part of the Marriage Act which allowed for young women to enter into culturally arranged marriages was problematic.

“Just because it is culturally appropriate for a 16-year-old to marry a man significantly older than her does not mean that she is not being forced or coerced into a marriage she may not want.”

She backed calls by Unicef and the Human Rights Commission to raise the legal marriage age to 18 in all circumstances and said a Family Court judge should assess marriages of teenagers before INZ approved their partnership visas.

Before a 16- or 17-year-old can legally marry in New Zealand they must convince a Family Court judge they are not being pressured into the relationship and understand what it means.

But an INZ spokesman said marriages that took place overseas were exempt from that process: “The only requirement is that the marriage is legally recognised in the country where the marriage took place.”

INZ assistant general manager Peter Elms said INZ was aware some culturally arranged marriages were forced marriages.

Staff considered visa applications for culturally arranged marriages carefully and extra scrutiny was given to applications involving people younger than 20.

“We may decide to interview the applicant and partner or even conduct a visit to the couple to help determine that the relationship is credible, genuine and stable,” Elms said.

Immigration officers completed training on domestic violence and human trafficking, he said.