Saudi Arabia To Ban Child Marriage
The practice of child marriage is common in rural areas of Pakistan and Middle East.Reuters

A 12-year-old girl was reportedly married to a 26-year-old Lebanese national in Australia, prompting the authorities to arrest the girl's father, her "husband", and the Muslim cleric involved in the illegal proceedings.

The "husband" was on a student visa, and had met the girl in the Hunter region north of Sydney last year, and became involved in a relationship with her, according to Sydney Morning Herald.

The Pakistani cleric or Imam, was charged with conducting an unlawful marriage, while the husband was booked for child sex offences.

The 61-year-old father, an Australian who had converted to Islam, was held responsible for being an accomplice to child abuse.

The Imam, Riaz Tasawar, 35, was the first person charged with administering an unauthorised solemnisation of marriage in Australia since Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research records began in 1994.

The "marriage" was carried out in living room of the girl's family home in January.

The father of the girl did not appear guilty or express any remorse over the abuse he sanctioned.

"Even if the allegations against him are proved, he believes there is nothing wrong with the behaviour alleged," Magistrate Caled Franklin told the Newcastle Herald.

"The defendant has a disregard for the laws of this state," he added.

The girl's Legal Aid solicitor said that her father says that the minor and the 26-year-old man were "in love and it is a very strong love".

The solicitor further quoted the father as saying that his daughter was "a very, very mature and strong-willed young woman".

The girl's Muslim-convert father also offered his unequivocal support for her "husband', who remains in custody.

Muslim leaders in the country have expressed their grave concern at the bizarre "wedding". The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, said the marriage should be "rejected and condemned from a legal and ethical perspective".

There might be hundreds of unreported child brides living in the state of New South Wales in Australia alone, according to a report by Sydney Daily Telegraph.