Forced child marriage

Forced child marriage is against the law.  This means that a person cannot be forced to marry someone they don’t want to marry, or to be forced to travel overseas to marry someone. It’s OK to talk to someone and get help and protection from the authorities.

The information on this page also applies to people who have already been forced into marriage. The contacts at the end of this page can help a person to leave their spouse, and start a new life.

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Forced marriage

A forced marriage happens when one or both partners do not freely and fully agree because of threats, lies or other means to make you do something you don’t want to do. It can include taking advantage of a person’s age or maturity. It is against the law to force anyone to get married, no matter how old they are. Forced marriage is illegal in Australia. This includes being forced to go overseas to get married.

Forced child marriage

Children under the age of 18 are not able to give permission to marry, unless they are 16 or 17 and have permission from a Court. Forced child marriage is when someone under 18 is forced to get married. Forced child marriage is illegal in Australia. This includes being forced to go overseas to get married . This means that the person who is forcing someone to get married has broken the law and might be punished.

Examples of ways a person might be forced into marriage include being tricked, threatened or pressured into it e.g. being sent to or from Australia to be forced to marry someone, being forced to stay home from school, forced to work, or being isolated and controlled in other ways.

Arranged marriage

Forced child marriage is different to an arranged marriage. An ‘arranged marriage’ is a marriage set up by family members. An arranged marriage is not a forced marriage if both partners are over 18 when they get married and they can choose whether or not to participate. However, an arranged marriage is a forced marriage if either partner is unable or unwilling to give permission.  

Helpful contacts

Legal support

It is against the law to be forced to marry, and a person in that situation has the right to be safe from all types of violence and harm. We can provide support, help you with any legal questions about forced child marriage and help connect with other organisations that can help. Call us on + 61 2 9385 9588 or e-mail us at [email protected].

Anti-Slavery Australia provides legal advice, assistance and legal representation to people who are in or at risk of, a forced marriage.

In case of emergency

In cases of immediate danger of being hurt or abused, call the police on the emergency number 000 and try to get to a secure place like to a trusted friend, school, a police station or a medical centre. If it is safe to do, try to keep a detailed list of threats, violence, abuse or harassment.

The Australian Federal Police can be contacted on 131 237 and can help people who are worried about being sent overseas, or who are already at the airport and do not want to leave. The AFP can be contacted for free on public phones.

Once overseas, if the threat of forced marriage becomes a reality, the Australian Embassy or Consulate can be contacted for help using the details here. It is important that in these cases, if there is any threat of forced marriage, that a trusted person knows what is going on and can provide help if case of emergencies. The Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra can also be contacted on +61 2 6261 3305 for help.   

Once the authorities are aware of a situation of forced marriage, they can help move that person to a safe place, seek a court order to prevent that person from being sent overseas, or create a formal safety plan for protection (which could include as a last resort being removed from family).

If a translator is required,  the Translating and Interpreting Service can be contacted on 131 450.

Counselling support

1800RESPECT is a counselling and support service for people who have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence.  They can be contacted 24 hours a day on 1800 737 732 or chatted to online at here.

The Kids Helpline provide free and private counselling (available 24 hours a day, but there can be a wait to get through). They are happy to talk to young people between the ages of 5-25 years about anything that’s troubling them. They can be called on 1800 55 1800 or chatted to online here.

The Australian Government has an excellent Forced Marriage Safety Plan that can help explains what options and situation are available to a person who is worried about the threat of forced marriage. The plan can be accessed here.

For more information about forced child marriage, see our Prezi presentation.

If you’re under 25 and you have a question about forced child marriages that we haven’t answered here, please ask us a question here and we can give you some free information and advice.

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