Federal police fear hike in child forced marriage cases. Eleni Argy, Senior Case Manager, Taldumande Youth Services lifts the lid on young victims, who are mostly girls, being “sold” for cash.
Kubra was just 11 years old when she became engaged to her older cousin.
The Sydney girl tried to convince her family the relationship was "toxic", but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
At 16, she went on what was supposed to be an overseas holiday to visit family. Instead, she was handed an invitation to her wedding, which was organised without her consent.
"I refused to marry him but my fiance's family threatened to harm me and took away my passport," Kubra said.
"I was incredibly stressed and depressed because of the whole situation."
She reluctantly went through with the marriage but managed to end it when she got back home, by agreeing to pay her in-laws $30,000.
Kubra's story is one of many serious cases of forced marriage reported to authorities, who fear a spike this year, as overseas travel picks up.
Source: Australian Federal Police
Police and government agencies are researching how to tackle the complex issue, which statistics show, is most prevalent in NSW and Victoria.
In the past year, there have been more than 80 reports from across the country to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), with almost half of them involving children under 18.
Taldumande Youth Services, Senior Case Manager Eleni Argy said young victims, who are mostly girls, are being "sold" for cash.
Taldumande Youth Services provides accommodation for teenagers who are being pressured to marry against their will.
"There is financial gain. Money is exchanged, properties perhaps, and girls are literally being sold off," Argy says.
"They can be groomed from a very young age, as young as six or seven."
Forced marriage became a criminal offence in Australia in 2013.
Despite this, there has not been a single conviction.
Taldumande Senior Case Manager Eleni Argy said many young girls who stay at the Sydney hostel were "betrayed" by their families.
The murder of Ruqia Haidari, 21, who was allegedly sold by her mother to a man for $15,000 in 2019, only to be murdered months later, sent shock waves across the nation.
Mohammad Ali Halimi killed the Victorian woman with a kitchen knife in their Perth home in January 2020, where she moved after marrying him.
In August last year, he was sentenced to 19 years behind bars.
Ms Haidari's mother, Sakina Muhammad Jan has pleaded not guilty to coercing her daughter into the forced marriage, with the matter currently before the courts.
Commander Hilda Sirec, from the AFP, leads a team that investigates child trafficking.
She said the unit struggled to prosecute offenders, with many victims not wanting to speak out against their families, who are often the perpetrators.
Commander Sirec is concerned cases will surge as COVID-19 border restrictions ease across the world.
"We're seeing more significant reports coming from places like NSW and Victoria," Commander Sirec said.
She said most reports came from "closer knit" communities, where arranged marriage was more common.
But University of Technology Anti-Slavery Australia director Jennifer Burn made it clear the two terms were not the same thing.
"An arranged marriage in Australia, is where both parties consent to the marriage," Ms Burn said.
"A forced marriage is where one or both parties don't have the chance to form full and free consent to the marriage because they've been coerced or threatened."
Ms Burn said the aim was to tackle the issue, before it reached a "crisis point".
"Many of those who force marriages onto others may genuinely want what's best for their children and come to later regret their actions when they see the consequences on their child's happiness," she said.
Authorities and community organisations are working together to tackle the complex issue by raising awareness within at-risk groups, in order to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.
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