Child bride in Australia: A 27-year-old man who married and impregnated a 12-year-old girl in an Islamic ceremony arranged by the girl’s father has been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years and a minimum of seven-and-a-half years in jail.
The man, who must remain unidentified due to Australian law, was a Lebanese student who met the girl at a Mosque in November 2013 after approaching the girl’s father and asking for an introduction.
According to reports, the pair subsequently “married” in an Islamic ceremony performed under sharia law in the girl’s living room in the Hunter region of Australia last January.
In court, the defense argued the defendant believed a Muslim girl could marry once she reached puberty. However, prosecutors pointed out the groom was warned by two different imams that marrying a 12-year-old girl was illegal under Australian law.
The defense also argued that the girl was mature, sophisticated, and intelligent for her age, and gave her “consent” to the marriage.
However, the presiding judge said:
She may be intelligent for a 12-year-old girl but she was still a 12-year-old girl.
The girl’s father allegedly arranged the illegal marriage of his daughter to the Lebanese immigrant because he wanted to stop her from “committing a life of sin.”
The father is scheduled to face trial later this year, and is charged with procuring a child under 14 for unlawful sexual activities, and being an accessory before the fact to sexual intercourse with a person under 14.
The girl, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered an ectopic pregnancy – where the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus – and miscarried. She is now under the care of state authorities.
The imam who performed the ceremony, Iranian cleric Sheikh Muhammad Tasawar, pleaded guilty to solemnising the marriage and was fined $500.
Despite the obvious immorality of child marriage, the practice continues to be legal in some Muslim dominated countries, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Many conservative Muslims defend the practice of child marriage because Mohammed, Islam’s role model, married Aisha when she was only six or seven, and “consummated” the marriage when she was nine.
For many Muslims, to condemn child marriage is to condemn Mohammed; and for many Muslims, this is simply too much to ask.