Court acts to stop arranged wedlock


A 16-YEAR-OLD Lebanese Australian girl has been placed on a nationwide airport watch list to stop her being sent to Lebanon against her will for an arranged marriage.

In what a magistrate has called an ”act of great bravery”, the girl sought a court order to stop her parents taking her out of Australia to marry a man she has met only once.

The girl, who cannot be named, approached the Legal Aid Commission in Sydney after her parents organised the wedding despite her saying she did not want to marry the man.

In the Federal Magistrates Court yesterday, magistrate Joe Harman granted an ex parte application and placed the girl on the PACE Alert system at all points of departure from Australia to prevent her parents spiriting her out of the country.

Mr Harman praised the girl’s bravery in using the legal system to challenge her parents’ authority. The girl, given the pseudonym Ms Madley by the court, was fearful of her mother’s reaction once she found out about her application, he said.

He ordered her parents not to assault, harass, threaten or intimidate her, or question her about the proceedings. ”Her actions in approaching the Legal Aid Commission, let alone this court, might be perceived as disrespectful of her parents and disobedient of there will,” he said.

He said the girl had displayed maturity not only by taking legal action to protect herself, but also in challenging part of the Lebanese Islamic culture in which she was brought up. ”It is not the right of any parent to cause their child to be married against their will, whether in accordance with the Australian law or otherwise.”

He said there was a psychological risk to Ms Madley if he did not make orders preventing her being forced into marriage she did not want, which he described as ”a principle that is contrary to all our legal processes hold dear and which would indeed, under Australian law, render the marriage void, as it is absent genuine consent.”

However, he said he was not criticising any culture that had arranged marriages. ”The arrangements proposed should not be judged or criticised from a Western perspective, but must be viewed through the eyes of those who live and appreciate that culture,” he said.