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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.
26 Oct 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.