Women claim marriage by ruse
The Family Court has been forced to intervene in the cases of two women who say they were tricked into marriage with Muslim men who had recently arrived in Australia.
The women — one of whom is Muslim-born and the other a convert — claim they were told they were taking part in Islamic ceremonies that would enable them to spend time alone with the men without breaking Islamic law.
In fact, the women were being legally married to men they had known for only three days in one case, and for less than a month in the other.
The ceremonies were conducted entirely in Arabic by local sheiks.
In the first case, a woman told the court she had met her groom when he got off the plane at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport. Three days later, an imam turned up at her father’s house in Melbourne.
She was told to put on a headscarf, asked not to speak, told to “Sign here, here and here”, and after signing a “bundle of documents”, was told to leave the room so the men could have tea and biscuits.
A year later, she found out she had been married to the man that day, although she had not seen him since.
The court annulled the marriage on February 9, after the bride produced a certificate from a medical practitioner to show the marriage had not been consummated.
In the second case, a Sydney woman told the court she took part in an Arabic ceremony a week after meeting a Lebanese-born man at a party.
Immediately after the ceremony, the Lebanese-born man went to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, where he applied for permanent residency.
The woman told the court last month she had converted to Islam in November 2007, and met her husband at a party in Sydney early last May.
She admitted signing a document that clearly bore the words “Commonwealth of Australia Marriage Certificate”.
She told the court: “I didn’t realise he had done an Australian marriage. I assumed it was an Islamic marriage.”
She said the documents that she was given to sign were “in blank form”.
She said she would be “more than willing if someone loves me to go with an Islamic marriage, but not an Australian marriage straight away”.
She failed to have the marriage annulled, largely because she admitted she had known she was going through some form of marriage.
The judge said she “thought the ceremony she went through was not binding upon her under Australian law”.
This, he said, was a mistake, but not one he would undo.