Federal police are deploying officers to Victorian schools to save children that are victims of forced marriage. Source: The Herald-Sun.
The AFP has been deploying officers to Melbourne and regional schools in recent months, where they have intelligence to suggest there may be child brides and grooms.
Across the country between July and December last year, the AFP received 45 “referrals” to investigate possible cases, including one with at least 12 potential victims.
Officers have spoken to students, teachers and parents to educate them on how to spot a victim and have called on anyone who suspects someone they know is in an illegal union or are victims themselves.
Human trafficking unit Detective Sergeant Bevan Moroney said many people do not realise that it is an issue in Australia and that police suspect the cases they know about are the tip of the iceberg.
“We go to a school because one of the girls may be at risk of forced marriage,” he said.
“We go in there and talk to the school let them know what we do and that there is some support programs and all of a sudden we get more reports coming through.
“The more we get it out there the more that people talk about it.”
The AFP has had contact with at least two Victorian schools this year and will be continuing the program by also carrying out awareness presentations with community organisations and non-government organisations.
Forced marriage is when children under the age of 16 are married off to older partners or someone is bound in matrimony against their will, either legally or informally.
Despite the prevalence of the practice, prosecution is extremely difficult.
Victims are deeply embedded in communities making it is difficult to get witnesses to testify.
Forced marriage was included in Australia’s criminal code in 2013, giving the AFP more power to investigate suspected cases, but only one case is currently before the courts.