I am worried about being forced to marry

Being forced to marry can feel different for different people.

Maybe you feel...

...trapped and think you don’t have a choice?

...scared and hopeless about your future?

...unsure about what you want and what you should do?

Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to do it alone.

In Australia, it is against the law for someone to force you to get married.

For a marriage to be legally recognised in Australia, you must freely and fully consent to getting married.

This means you should not be pressured by other people or be afraid of what will happen if you say ‘no’.

Other people are not allowed to force you get married by:

Coercing you

This means putting pressure on you to get married.

Examples include:

  • Emotional or psychological abuse

  • Scaring or harassing you and your loved ones

  • Physical or sexual violence

  • Controlling your activities, like where you go and who you see

  • Controlling your finances

  • Taking away your passport or other important documents

  • Making you feel guilty and ashamed if you refuse.

Threatening you

This means trying to scare you into agreeing to a marriage, by telling you that something bad will happen if you don’t agree.

Examples include:

  • Blackmailing you

  • Saying you will be disowned

  • Saying your family will be shamed

  • Saying you or someone else will get hurt if you don’t agree to the marriage.

Deceiving you

This means tricking you into getting married by saying or doing things that are untrue or dishonest.

Examples include:

  • Lying to you about why you are going overseas and not telling you that you are actually going to get married.

  • Lying about a marriage ceremony and telling you it is just a party or an engagement.

Are you under 18 years old?

If you are under 18 years old, you generally cannot get married in Australia. In special circumstances, a person who is 16 or 17 years old can get married if a court agrees to it, but this happens very rarely.

If you are under 16 years old, you cannot get married even if you agree to it. This means that, if you get married now, it will be a forced marriage and you will be protected by the law, no matter if you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the marriage.

What are your rights?

In Australia, you have the right to choose if, when and who you marry. You also have the right to not be taken overseas against your will or tricked into going overseas to get married.

Your family and community can help you choose a partner and plan the marriage – this is often called an 'arranged marriage'. But ultimately, you should have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the marriage at any time, without being afraid of something bad happening.

In reality, you might not actually have a choice. But what you want matters when you are deciding whether to get married. You deserve to be heard and respected by the people around you.

Remember, you are protected in Australia and have rights no matter:

  • Your age

  • Your visa or residency status

  • Your gender or sexual orientation

  • Your ethnic, cultural or religious background

  • What language(s) you speak

  • How much money, power or influence other people have

  • What marriage traditions you follow

  • What type of marriage ceremony you will have.

What can you do?

Even though the marriage hasn’t happened yet, you can still get help. If someone is...

  • Pressuring or guilt-tripping you into agreeing to a marriage...

  • Shaming you, threatening to disown you, or threatening to cut you out from your community if you don’t agree...

  • Hurting you or someone you care about, or making you afraid of someone getting hurt if you don’t get married...

  • Lying to you or tricking you into getting engaged or getting married...

  • Making you feel like you don’t have a say in whether you get married...

  • Suddenly planning to take you overseas and you suspect something might happen...

...you can contact us for free legal advice and support.

You may want to stop the marriage from happening, or you may decide to go ahead with it. Whatever you would like to do, we can help you learn about your rights, your options and how to stay safe.

Are you going overseas or already overseas?

Sometimes, a person is taken out of Australia and forced to get married in a different country. They might think they are just going on a holiday, and not know that they are actually going to get married. Other countries have different laws on forced marriage and may not have as many support services as Australia.

If you might be going overseas and think you might be forced to marry, please contact us for help before you leave Australia.

It will be much harder to get help once you are overseas. We can give you advice and information now about how to stop yourself from being taken overseas, or what to do if you do travel overseas.

If you are being taken overseas soon, you can also get urgent help by calling the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on 131 237.

Tips if you are going overseas

1. Leave a copy of your passport, travel plans and contact information with a trusted friend or family member while you are overseas.

2. Tell your trusted friend or family member as much information as you can about where you are going and how long you will be gone. Tell them how often you expect to be in contact with them, so that if they don't hear from you, they can tell someone you might need help.

3. Try to take with you:

If you are already overseas, there is still help available.

We can help you talk to the right people, and in the past, we have helped people get back to Australia. Please contact us to learn more.

If you are Australian, there are Australian Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates in many countries that may be able to help. Click here to find the closest one to you.

  • For urgent consular help, call Australia's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or send an SMS text to +61 421 269 080. Reverse charges are available if needed.

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