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Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs )

About forced marriage

A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully consenting to the marriage. This may be because:

  • They were coerced, threatened or deceived, or

  • They did not understand the marriage ceremony that they took part in.

Forced marriage is a form of modern slavery, family violence and gender-based violence. It is a serious breach of human rights that affects millions of people around the world.

Yes. Forced marriages can and do take place in Australia. A person can also be brought to Australia, or taken out of Australia, for a forced marriage.

Forced marriage is the most common form of modern slavery reported in Australia, but even then, the exact number of forced marriages is unknown. Research suggests forced marriage is very underreported. There are many reasons for this. People in forced marriages may not recognise that they are in a forced marriage or that they can get help. Other times, they might be afraid of speaking up because they are worried about their safety or about getting their family in trouble.

No. While mostly we hear about women and girls being in forced marriages, men and boys (and people who are gender-diverse) can also be forced into marriages. Forced marriage can happen to a person of any gender or sexual orientation.

To hear about how forced marriage can affect people of different genders and sexual orientations, read our stories here.

No. Forced marriage is not limited to any particular cultural group, religion or ethnicity, and there are reports of forced marriage from all over the world, including Australia. Forced marriage is not condoned by any major religion in the world.

To hear about how forced marriage can affect people from different backgrounds, read our stories here.

Arranged marriages are allowed in Australia. In an arranged marriage, the couple is introduced to each other by their family members or other people. Each person can freely choose whether or not they want to go ahead with the marriage. They are not pressured into saying yes or afraid of saying no. Each person can decide not to go ahead with the marriage at any time, even if they had agreed to it earlier.

This is different from a forced marriage because, in a forced marriage, the person cannot freely choose whether or not to get married. An arranged marriage, like any other type of marriage, can turn into a forced marriage if a person stops having this free choice. When a person starts being coerced, threatened or deceived into agreeing to the marriage, it becomes a forced marriage because they are no longer giving their free and full consent.

The law in Australia

Yes. In Australia, it is a crime to force someone to get married, or to be involved in organising a forced marriage. Forced marriage is an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. A person who is found guilty can go to prison for up to 7 to 25 years.

Yes. Australia’s forced marriage laws apply to different kinds of marriages and marriage-like relationships. This includes religious, cultural and customary marriages, as well as registered relationships.

If an Australian citizen or resident forces another person to get married overseas, this will be covered by Australia’s forced marriage laws. If an overseas marriage does not involve an Australian citizen or resident, it could still be a forced marriage but it may not be an offence under Australia’s laws.

Yes. It is against the law for any person to have a role in bringing about a forced marriage. This includes families, friends, wedding planners and marriage celebrants.

It is also a crime to get married to someone who is being forced into the marriage, unless they are also being forced themselves.

A forced marriage is not only a crime, but it may also be an invalid marriage under Australian law. Under the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961, a marriage is void if one person did not give real consent, or if they are under the marriageable age. The marriageable age in Australia is 18 years old (but people who are 16 or 17 years old can get married in special circumstances).

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