Forced marriage was criminalised three years ago in Australia. Since then, Australia has taken robust steps to respond to forced marriage by shaping legal, education and community engagement. But significant challenges remain.
What is forced marriage?
Forced marriage is a form of gender-based violence that affects more women and girls than boys and men.
In Australian law, a forced marriage is where a person marries without fully and freely consenting to the marriage because of coercion, threat, deception or because he or she is “incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony”.
Coercion includes psychological oppression, abuse of power and taking advantage of a person’s vulnerability. The formation of full and free consent can involve complex issues of structure, cultural background, community expectations, gender inequality, and additional vulnerabilities associated with age and unequal power relationships.
Since 2013, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has received notification of more than 50 possible forced marriage cases. The AFP has referred 17 people at risk of or in a forced marriage to the government-funded Support for Trafficked People Program administered by the Australian Red Cross.
Of the 17 referrals, the majority were young women or girls under the age of 18 who were Australian citizens or residents at the time.
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