Tougher penalties to combat forced marriage


Forced marriage is an insidious and hidden crime. It is illegal and there is no place for it in Australia.

On august 12, 2015    new laws passed the House of Representatives to clarify what constitutes forced marriage, and to introduce tough new penalties for conduct that causes a person to enter into a forced marriage.

The definition of forced marriage has also been amended regarding children and consent to marriage to clarify that:

  • a person does not consent because he or she is incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony; and
  • that a child under the age of 16 is presumed to have not understood the marriage ceremony and therefore not have consented to the marriage.

These changes mean that any person who engages in conduct that causes a person who does not understand the marriage ceremony to enter a marriage, such as through arranging or officiating over the marriage of a child, would be committing an offence.

The changes will increase the penalty for engaging in conduct to cause another person to enter into a forced marriage. The penalty for an aggravated forced marriage offence will be increased from a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment to a maximum of nine years’ imprisonment.

The forced marriage offences are aggravated if the victim is under 18; if the offender subjects the victim to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or engages in conduct reckless to the danger of death or serious harm to the victim or another person.

The changes will also increase the maximum penalty for non-aggravated forced marriage offences from the existing four years’ to seven years’ imprisonment.

This Government is taking strong action to protect vulnerable people ”“ reaching out to the mostly young women and girls who could be exposed to forced marriage ”“ because we want them to find help and stay safe.

It will  prosecute anyone found to be coercing, threatening or deceiving someone into marriage.

Further information regarding the Government’s efforts to eradicate forced marriage can be found

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