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Early and forced marriages are against the law in all States and Territories of Australia. It is also against the law to take someone to another country for an early or forced marriage.

What are early and forced marriages?

Early marriage is when someone under 18 years is married. It is also called child marriage.

Forced marriage is when someone is pressured, threatened or tricked into marriage by:

  • making them feel they will bring shame on their family if they don't marry
  • violence or threats towards them or people they love
  • keeping travel documents, such as their passport, until they agree to marry
  • tricking or lying - saying they are only going overseas for a holiday or to get engaged.

If cultural or religious practices are different from Australian law, the law always comes first.

What does Australian law say?

The law says that:

  • people aged 18 years and over can freely choose whether or not they will marry, and who they will marry
  • anyone under 18 years cannot marry. In very special circumstances a 16 or 17 year old can apply to a Court for permission to marry
  • cultural or religious marriage ceremonies and registered relationships with anyone under 18 years are not legal.

Early and forced marriages happen mostly to girls but can affect boys too. Parents can feel family or community pressure to continue this practice even after coming to Australia. If this happens, remember these marriages are crimes and serious penalties apply.

Benefits of not forcing young people to marry

When young people are not forced to marry, they are more likely to:

  • finish school
  • get a good job
  • have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth
  • be treated respectfully
  • be at less risk of violence, including sexual violence.

What about arranged marriage?

Arranged marriages are legal in Australia. This is when a person agrees to their parents or another person finding them someone to marry. However, both people marrying must be 18 years or over and freely agree to the marriage.

Getting help

Get help straight away if anyone you know is at risk of an early or forced marriage or of being taken to another country to be married. You could:

  • contact a service. They are confidential. You can ask for an interpreter
  • call the Police
  • call the Child Abuse Report Line
  • talk to staff at a school.

Early and forced marriages harm young people's health and wellbeing and deny their human rights.


See parent and information support.

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Last published: 07 Aug 2020 3:41pm

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Provided by:
Department of Human Services
Last Updated:
02 Mar 2021
Printed on:
25 Feb 2024
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