SYDNEY (AFP) – The Australian government is investigating claims a nine-year-old girl from Sydney has been taken out of the country to be married in the Middle East, officials said Tuesday.
The Immigrant Women’s Health Service said it received a tip-off about the case, adding that the issue of child brides was going largely unreported.
The service’s executive director Eman Sharobeem said staff immediately went to the girl’s home to speak to her family, and they indicated she would return at some point.
“I have fears for her safety. I have fears for her wellbeing. If the suspicion came and we didn’t attend to it, then it’s our fault,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“In cases like this, many girls disappear from the radar and we don’t know anything about them, and then we are surprised with them coming back married or already pregnant.”
“Forced marriage is an insidious and hidden crime,” said Justice Minister Michael Keenan, adding that the government was checking the report about the nine-year-old.