Fighting for Justice Foundation, along with the DPP, AFP, Anti Slavery Australia, the Salvation Army, child protection and other front line organisations at the invitation of the Commonwealth Attorney-Generals Department attended a forced Marriage round table discussion.
We know that forced marriage and child marriages take place in Australia, despite the fact that they are illegal. Earlier this year, the Herald Sun reported that: “VICTORIAN schoolgirls are being forced into marriage in record numbers as a Melbourne man is set to be the first person convicted under federal forced-marriage laws. Authorities are investigating dozens of child-bride and forced-marriage claims, with new figures revealing Victorian cases make up almost one-third of probes launched.”
Reports have been made about young girls being sent overseas to marry, while others are being married in illegal religious ceremonies.
Federal police investigated 69 incidents of forced or underage marriage in the 2015-16 financial year, with 19 investigations launched in Victoria.
The national figure was up from 33 the previous year. In the 2013-14 financial year, just 11 cases were investigated.
There is also evidence from government documents obtained by 7 News that there have been four children under the age of 10 who have married in Australia.
The government has supported some wonderful initiatives on forced marriage, including the information portal MyBlueSky.
Launched in December 2015, My Blue Sky is Australia’s first website dedicated to forced marriage prevention, information, referrals and legal advice. The site empowers vulnerable people and those who support them to access resources, links to Australian support services, and direct legal assistance through phone, text message, email and secure online locker room.
A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully consenting, because they have been coerced threatened or deceived. This can include emotional pressure from their family, threats of or actual physical harm, or being tricked into marrying someone.
This type of marriage is against the law in Australia.
Some types of coercion are obvious and easy to identify, including the use of physical or sexual violence, or refusing to let somebody leave a particular place or location until they accept the marriage.
Other types of coercion are less obvious because they involve psychological and emotional pressure. These types of coercion can include making a person feel responsible for, or ashamed of the consequences of not marrying, such as bringing shame on their family.
Forced marriage is a slavery-like practice, a form of gender-based violence and an abuse of human rights.
The Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 includes provisions whereby a marriage may be void if the consent of a party was not real, or if a party was not of marriageable age.
Australia’s forced marriage offences carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment, or nine years’ imprisonment for an aggravated offence. An offence may be aggravated in several circumstances, including where the victim is under the age of 18. If the victim is under the age of 18 and is taken overseas for the purpose of forced marriage, the maximum penalty increases to 25 years’ imprisonment.
The Commonwealth Attorney-Generals Department public portal contains a number of information sheets in several languages on forced marriage, and can be found on their website: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/
You can watch an SBS news report on the wonderful work of The Freedom Hub and Anti Slavery Australia’s efforts against forced marriage here:
The National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service is a free 24/7 confidential telephone and online counselling service, staffed by professional counsellors to assist any person who has experienced, or is at risk of family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. You can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Service website.
Organisations working on the front line with forced marriage and child marriage victims include:
Call: 02 9514 9662
Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights
Call: 03 9481 3000
The Freedom Partnership—Salvation Army
Phone: 02 9211 5794
If you need advice about forced marriage, you can:
Call (02) 9514 8115
Send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send a text to 0481 070 844
Call the Australian Federal Police on 131 AFP (131 237) or
In an emergency, dial Triple Zero (000).