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  • Writer's pictureTatiana Holguin

Is forced marriage legal in Australia?

Forced marriage involves a person getting married without freely and completely consenting because they were coerced, threatened, or deceived. This situation also applies to individuals who are not capable of understanding the nature and effect of marriage due to age or mental capacity. Coercion is not always physical; it can be psychological and emotional, including shame and pressure to marry. Nowadays, forced marriage is considered a form of slavery and gender-based violence, constituting an abuse of human rights.

Furthermore, arranged marriage should not be confused with forced marriage. Arranged marriage involves the introduction of potential spouses with the involvement of a third party, but it necessitates the consent of both parties to proceed with the marriage. Arranged marriages are legal in Australia as they are consensual unions.

In Australia, the legal age for marriage is 18. No one under 16 can legally marry, but individuals aged between 16 and 17 can do so with permission from their parents and a judge.

Forced marriage was made illegal in Australia in 2013, with the laws strengthened in 2015 to impose higher penalties. Forced marriage is a criminal offence under Section 270.7B of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has a specialised team that investigates forced marriage cases. Penalties for forced marriage can result in up to 25 years imprisonment.

If you are being forced to marry someone or know someone in this situation, reports can be made to the AFP website or by calling 131 AFP (131 237).

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