What is forced marriage?

If you are in a forced marriage or are worried you are going to be forced to marry, please know that help is available and that you are not alone. You may be scared and unsure of your future. You may be confused about your feelings and duties and may not know what to do next. You can contact one of the numbers on this page to get some help and support.

A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully consenting. This may be because they do not understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony or they have been coerced threatened or deceived, because of emotional pressure from their family, threats of or actual physical harm, or being tricked into marrying someone. If a person is under 16 years old at the time of the marriage, they are not usually considered to have been able to freely and fully consent to the marriage. This type of marriage can have long-term negative impacts on people and families and is against the law in Australia.


For more information about the law in Australia click here


In March 2013 a law came into effect making forced marriage illegal in Australia. It is a crime to cause a person to enter into a forced marriage or to be a party to the forced marriage (unless you are the victim). The law is included in Division 270 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. The offences carry a maximum jail term of 7 years, or 9 years for an aggravated offence which includes forcing a person under the age of 18 to marry or forcing a person with a disability to marry. If someone helps to arrange for a child under the age of 18 to be taken outside Australia to be married, they could be jailed for up to 25 years.

If you are in a forced marriage

…or are worried you are going to be forced to marry, please know that help is available and that you are not alone. You may be scared and unsure of your future. You may be confused about your feelings and duties and may not know what to do next. You can contact one of the numbers on this page to get some help and support.

Examples of forced marriages

1. “A 17 year old girl has a boyfriend but her parents tell her that she has to stop seeing him and marry someone else. She is told that if she doesn’t agree to marry the other person, she will be hurt. If the girl goes ahead with the marriage because she is fearful of being harmed, this is a forced marriage.”

Examples of forced marriages

2. “A 15 year old girl is told that she is going on a family holiday during the school holidays. When she and her family arrive overseas she is told that she must get married to a cousin. She is told that if she doesn’t agree to the marriage she won’t ever be allowed to return to Australia. If the marriage goes ahead, this is a forced marriage.”

Examples of forced marriages

3. “A 19 year old man tells his family that he is gay. A few weeks later, his family tells him that he must marry a young woman in the community he has known for many years. The marriage goes ahead because he is told that if he doesn’t marry her, he will bring so much shame on his family that his grandmother will likely have a heart attack. This is a forced marriage.”

What is an arranged marriage?

In some families, marriages are arranged. The couple are introduced to each other by a family member or another person. Each person can freely choose whether or not they want to go ahead with the marriage and their families listen to their choice without any consequences. Arranged marriages are legal in Australia for people over the age of 18 because the couple only get married if they both freely choose to marry each other.

Even if they first agreed to it, an arranged marriage can change to become a forced marriage if one or both of the people are threatened, tricked or pressured into saying yes to the marriage. The person may feel helpless to say no to the wedding. At that time, they are no longer giving full and free consent and the marriage becomes a forced marriage.

Click here for an example of an arranged marriage

A 19 year old person is introduced to a potential marriage partner by a family member, friend or other third party. The person can choose to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the marriage. If they decide to say ‘no’ to the marriage, it will simply not go ahead. If they decide to say ‘yes’ to the marriage with their full and free consent, the marriage will go ahead. Their full and free consent means that there were no threats, tricks or pressure on them to say yes to the marriage.

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Contact numbers for health and support

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Lawyers

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For free and private help from a lawyer you can send a text, call or email, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.

Counselling

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The National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service provides free confidential telephone and online counselling.

Australian Federal Police

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If you have been forced into a marriage against your will and want to speak to the police, call the Australian Federal Police. They have a special team of both men and women officers who can help you.

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