| 9.4°C Dublin

Teen girl wins freedom from forced wedding

NEW laws may be necessary to protect very young people from being subjected to 'forced' marriages, a judge has warned.

His comment came after the High Court annulled the union between a 16-year-old Egyptian girl and a 29-year-old man whom she married against her wishes.

The marriage between the couple, who are both of the Islamic faith, was declared null and void, in a ruling which was delivered by Mr Justice John MacMenamin.

"While Irish society is becoming increasingly diverse and the Constitution attaches great significance to equality, children's rights and the institution of marriage, there are no laws addressing marriages involving 'no real consent'," Mr Justice John MacMenamin said.

An Irish charity warned that more cases of forced marriage have been identified in women living in Ireland.

Plan Ireland said: "With changing patterns of migration into Ireland in recent years, it is not hugely surprising that cases of forced and child marriage among people living here have been identified."

Concerns

It said that in Ireland, while there is a lack of data on forced marriage, previous research has highlighted cases of women living in Ireland who experienced forced marriage in their country of origin.

These cases were described as typically taking place in the age range of 12 to 14 years, it said.

In the case before Mr Justice MacMenamin, gardai and others had raised concerns that the teen was the subject of a marriage against her will. The girl had little contact with her future husband and was very apprehensive about the marriage, the High Court heard.

The girl told teachers and social workers during 2010 she did not wish to be married and would run away rather than go through with the wedding, but that her brother had said he would kill her if she ran away.

A devout Muslim, she did not wish to distress her parents and lived at least some of the time with her purported husband before phoning a teacher in early 2011 to say she had run away, leading to her being placed in interim HSE care.

The HSE in 2011 initiated proceedings to annul the marriage. Judge MacMenamin said that this was not a case where the State or its agencies "failed".

fdillon@herald.ie