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Forced Marriage - My Blue Sky

Marriage in Australia is for men and women over the age of 18 who fully agree to and understand the marriage. In some rare circumstances, a person aged 16 or 17 can get married with the approval of a court. It’s against the law to force anyone to get married.

It doesn’t matter what your age is, what country or family background you come from, whether you are male or female, or what your culture or religion is - nobody is allowed to force you to get married against your will.

What is forced marriage?

Forced marriage is a serious breach of human rights which affects millions of girls and women as well as boys and men worldwide, including in Australia. A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully consenting. This may be because they do not understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony or they have been coerced threatened or deceived , because of emotional pressure from their family, threats of or actual physical harm, or being tricked into marrying someone. A person under 16 years of age at the time of the marriage is not usually considered to be capable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony. This type of marriage can have long-term negative impacts on people and families and is against the law in Australia.

The impact on men and women who have been forced to marry is severe and long lasting. People who have experienced forced marriage or the threat of forced marriage may suffer psychological trauma, increased risk to family violence, decreased access to education and work opportunities, financial dependence, forced labour and health issues associated with forced and early pregnancy.

If you are in a forced marriage or are worried you are going to be forced to marry, or you are worried about someone you know, help is available and you are not alone.

What is an arranged marriage?

In some families, marriages are arranged. The couple are introduced to each other by a family member or another person. Each person can freely choose whether or not they want to go ahead with the marriage and their families listen to their choice without any consequences.

Arranged marriages are legal in Australia for people over the age of 18 because the couple only get married if they both freely choose to marry each other.

Even if they first agreed to it, an arranged marriage can change to become a forced marriage if one or both of the people are threatened, tricked or pressured into saying yes to the marriage. The person may feel helpless to say no to the wedding. At that time, they are no longer giving full and free consent and the marriage becomes a forced marriage.

My Blue Sky

Launched by Anti-Slavery Australia in 2015, My Blue Sky is Australia’s first website dedicated to forced marriage prevention, information and legal advice. Available in 15 languages with specialised pages for young children, teenagers, educators and medical practitioners, the website offers vulnerable people access to information about marriage in Australia, and, direct access to legal advice and support through SMS, email or a secure online locker room.

This platform has allowed us to reach, engage and provide legal advice and assistance to many children and young people at-risk of, or who have experienced, forced marriages. This includes helping Australian citizens and residents who have been taken overseas for a forced marriage, to return home.