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Forced marriage is when a person (or both people) marries without freely and fully consenting. They may be tricked, threatened or pressured into getting married.
People can be forced to marry through physical and psychological means. This can include physical or sexual violence, threats, imprisonment, removal from school, or telling someone they will bring shame upon the family for not marrying.
Underage forced marriage, also known as forced child marriage, is when someone under the age of 18 is forced to marry.
Under Australian law, children under 18 cannot give their permission to marry. Children aged 16 and 17 years old can only marry if they have the permission of the Court and their parents.
No person under 16 can legally marry in Australia under any circumstance.
Underage forced marriage is not limited to any particular culture, religion or ethnicity.
Underage forced marriage is against the law in Australia. So is forced marriage.
Anyone with a role in organising an underage forced marriage can be jailed for up to seven years, or nine years if the offence is considered "aggravated". For example, if a person under 18 years old with a disability is forced to marry. This can include family, friends, wedding organisers, marriage celebrants and religious leaders. The law applies even when the marriage or ceremony is a cultural or religious practice, and not a legally binding marriage.
It is also a crime when a person is brought to Australia from overseas for the purposes of a forced marriage, or taken from Australia to be forced to marry overseas. People involved in organising an overseas underage forced marriage can be jailed for up to 25 years.
Forced marriage and arranged marriages are different.
An arranged marriage is when a person 18 or over is introduced to a possible spouse by someone else (usually family). Both people then choose whether they get married or not. Both have to freely agree to the arranged marriage.
Arranged marriage is legal in Australia.
Australia offers great opportunities for its young people to fulfil their dreams.
Everyone deserves the right to choose who they marry. Being forced to marry underage ruins a girl’s chance for a brighter future. It limits their options for education and destroys the most important years of adolescence and childhood. It’s also against the law. Let them choose a brighter future.
If you are in a forced marriage or worried that you are going to be forced to marry, you can get help.
If you are in immediate danger or threat of violence call triple zero 000.
My blue sky is an organisation funded by the Australian Government to help people in this situation.
Contact My Blue Sky on 02 9514 8115 or visit www.mybluesky.org.au for more information on getting help.
It is often hard to know if a child or young person is being forced to marry underage. If you suspect someone is being forced to marry underage you should seek help as soon as possible.
It is important to consider both the safety of the person at risk of forced marriage and your own safety. If there is an immediate danger or threat of violence call triple zero 000.
In NSW call the 24-hour Child Protection Helpline on 132 111. The Helpline can offer advice and assistance 24 hours a day for children and young people who are at risk of significant harm. This includes the risk of underage forced marriage.
There may also be someone you trust, like a doctor, teacher or family member who you can speak to about a possible underage forced marriage.
If you speak a language other than English, contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.
Call 132 111 for information and assistance.
The NSW government is conducting a campaign about the issue of underage forced marriage. It includes advertising in culturally and linguistically diverse media (‘Child Not Bride’), work with community organisations and leaders, information sheets available in multiple languages, and social media to target young women.
Underage forced marriage is illegal in NSW and has detrimental impacts on young people.
For more information and assistance call the 24hr Child Protection Helpline 132 111.
Information about underage forced marriage is available in the following languages as text only and printable PDFs.
09 Feb 2022
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future.
Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.