An investigation in the UK has found some Muslim clerics are willing to carry out marriages involving child brides as young as 12.
A man posing as the father of a 12-year-old girl who wanted her to marry to 'prevent her being tempted into a decadent Western lifestyle' approached the clerics to discover they would permit and be willing to officiate the marriage.
While the marriage would not be recognised by law in Britain, where the Government is pushing to outlaw forced marriage, one imam (a leader of worship in a mosque) allegedly said that under Islamic law the marriage would be ok, and encouraged it saying he would love to have the girl married as soon as possible and "the younger the better".
"The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went (to the authorities)," he reportedly said.
The other imam willing to carry out the ceremony explained to the man that once the girl showed signs of puberty, the father would have the right to marry off his daughter.
He said he would be happy to marry a 12-year-old girl as long as her parents told no-one about it.
It was also found that of the 8,000 forced marriages carried out in Britain each year, 1,000 of those are believed to involve girls 15 or under, with one case last year allegedly involving a five-year-old.
While there are no reliable statistics on forced marriage in Australia there has been a push to outlaw it with new laws criminalising forced marriage and forced labour introduced by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon earlier this year.
"Forced marriage and forced labour have no place in a modern and democratic nation like Australia," she said in a statement.
"Young people may be coerced, threatened or deceived into consenting to marriage. Under these new laws, this type of behaviour will be outlawed."