A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully consenting. They may have been coerced, threatened or deceived or may not able to understand the nature of the marriage ceremony. This may be because of their young age or because of other factors that make it hard for them to understand what marriage means.
Forced marriage is not limited to any particular cultural group, religion or ethnicity. Anybody can be a victim of forced marriage, regardless of their age, gender or sexual orientation.
Forced marriage is a crime in Australia. The forced marriage offences apply to cultural, religious or legal marriages. They apply to marriages that occur in Australia, to marriages where a person is brought to Australia to get married, and to marriages where a person is taken overseas to get married.
A forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. An arranged marriage involves family or friends introducing a potential couple to each other, but with both members of the couple being of legal marrying age and both truly consenting to the marriage.
Freely and fully consenting means that a person is able to choose if, who and when to get married and that they want to marry. Free and full consent cannot be given by somebody who is unable to understand what they are consenting to. Being coerced, threatened or deceived, along with a person's age and intellectual capacity can all impact someone's ability to freely and fully consent. The information below explains what free and full consent means in relation to marriage.
The following are a few signs that a person may be in, or at risk of entering into, a forced marriage:
Someone in or at risk of a forced marriage may find it hard to talk about their situation. Cross cultural competence, using the window of opportunity for engagement and risk assessment and safety planning are all important skills to for responding well.
If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child or young person is at risk of any type of violence or harm, it is important to seek help. Under state and territory laws you have certain obligations to report child abuse and neglect. If you do not have a legal obligation to report, you can still contact the Australian Federal Police on 131 AFP (131 237) if you suspect someone is in, or at risk of, forced marriage.