An alarming number of underage girls, some as young as nine, have been forced to marry older men in Australia.
In just two years, 57 children were described as ‘at risk’ of being married against their will, according to Federal Police documents seen by Seven News.
All 57 underage girls were in New South Wales: 51 in Sydney, two in Murrumbidgee, one in the Hunter, another in Illawarra and two more on the Mid North Coast.
In some cases girls have been taken overseas and forced to wed adult men, leaving Australian authorities unable to act or prevent the marriages.
One girl was ‘held against her will’ and ‘forced to marry’ while another report revealed allegations of forced marriage ‘at the end of the school year,’ according to the documents.
Some children, including two sisters from Liverpool in Sydney’s west, were flown overseas and ‘exploited’.
‘We need friends to come forward and say ”you don’t have to do this”,’ Family and Human Services Minister Pru Goward said.
‘No wonder they feel such enormous pressure – a poor little nine-year-old – to have to struggle with her parents.
‘[If people] choose to turn the other cheek… we will end up with a continuation of forced marriages.’
The revelations come after a 34-year-old Muslim man was arrested for marrying a 14-year-old girl in Melbourne last year.
The imam involved, Ibrahim Omerdic, was spared jail after being found guilty of unlawfully solemnising the marriage.
In June a Lebanese man, 31, was arrested after allegedly abducting an 18-year-old girl from her bedroom and taking her to a home in Lakemba to be married by a sheikh.
Controversial halal businessman Mohamed Elmouelhy has claimed Muslim men who marry teenagers are treated worse than paedophiles.
Daily Mail Australia contacted the Australian Federal Police and Family and Community Services for comment.