Forced marriage in Australia

Around the world, one in five girls are said to be married before the age of 18. There are over 650 million women alive today who were married as children.

 two hands bound together with barbed wire, with barbed wire rings on wedding band fingers

Child, early and forced marriage is a global human rights abuse that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities—and Australia is not immune.

  • Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and is against the law in Australia
  • A marriage is forced if it is entered into without free and full consent. It is different to arranged marriage, which is a legal practice where both parties freely consent to the marriage.
  • Victims and perpetrators of forced marriage are not limited to any particular cultural group, religion or ethnicity
  • Forced marriage is harmful and can result in violence, isolation, servitude, imprisonment, mental health problems, even death

Forced marriage was criminalised in Australia as a practice of slavery under the Commonwealth Criminal Code in 2013. However, the true extent of forced marriage in Australia is unknown as available data is not comprehensive. Over the last five years, the Australian Federal Police have investigated over 170 cases of alleged forced marriage. This number is only the tip of the iceberg.

Policy advocacy

Forced marriage is defined as a practice of slavery in Australia. We identify forced marriage as a practice that occurs along a continuum and Australia must consider a range of responses to prevent the practice and meet the needs of those at risk. We work with civil society, state and federal governments to identify best practice interventions in prevention and protection. We are one of five key drivers of the Victorian Forced Marriage Network, and an active member of the New South Wales Forced Marriage Network.

Our position:

  • In addition to understanding forced marriage as slavery, we recognise forced marriage as gender-based violence. We call for the recognition of forced marriage within nation-wide family violence and child protection frameworks.

We advocate for:

  • Expanding the definition of family violence to include forced marriage
  • Full de-linking of support for victims of forced marriage from engagement and participation with law enforcement
  • Introduction of forced marriage protection orders
  • Development of a central point of coordination for government and civil society stakeholders


Download our background paper here

Our other work in this policy area:

Statement to the Commission on the Status of Women- Session 62 (2018)

Trafficking in Persons Report 2018

Hidden Exploitation: Women in forced labour, marriage and migration

Submission to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence