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Responding to disclosures of forced marriage

Responding to disclosures of forced marriage

  • Our Introduction to responding page is a good place to start if you need information about how to respond to disclosures of domestic, family and sexual violence
  • It is also important to know your responsibilities under your State or Territory's mandatory reporting laws
  • On this page you will find contacts and resources to support you in responding to situations where someone you are supporting has disclosed that they have been forced to marry.
  • If you or someone you know has experienced forced marriage, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit our website for online chat and video call services:
    • Available 24/7: Call, text or online chat
    • Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST (except national public holidays): Video call (no appointment needed) 

What is forced marriage?

The Australian Department of Home Affairs defines forced marriage as a situation whereby a person gets married without freely and fully consenting, because they have been coerced, threatened or deceived, or because they are incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony, for reasons including age or mental capacity.

Responding to disclosures of forced marriage

Someone in a non-consensual marriage or at risk of a forced marriage may find it hard to talk about their situation for various reasons including what may be a sense to uphold cultural tradition, obligation to their family and/or religion, and/or concern for the consequences for their family (including shame and disappointment that may be directed at them from their family). In some situations, an individual may not be aware that forced marriage is illegal in Australia. 

Reporting obligations

If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child or young person is at risk of any type of violence or harm, it is important to seek help. Under State and Territory laws you have certain obligations to report child abuse and neglect. If you do not have a legal obligation to report, you can still contact the Australian Federal Police on 131 AFP (131 237) if you suspect someone is in, or at risk of, forced marriage. 

Specialist responses

The Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has a specialist team that responds to suspected cases of forced marriage. They are able to help people in, or at risk of, a forced marriage even when that person does not want to assist with an investigation or prosecution. If the person is a minor (younger than 18 years old), the AFP is compelled to act in their best interests and will work alongside the relevant State or Territory child protection authority. You can contact the Australian Federal Police anonymously by calling 131 AFP (131 237), or by filling out an online form on the AFP website. The AFP can also refer suspected victims of forced marriage to the Government-funded Support for Trafficked People Program.

The Australian Federal Police 

The Forced Marriage Community Pack

The Attorney-General Department produced Forced Marriage Community Pack includes a range of materials about forced marriage for use by people in, or at risk of, forced marriage, the general community, the media and organisations and service providers. Visit the Attorney-General’s website and scroll down to the resources under the heading 'Forced marriage community pack'. Select materials are available in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Somali, Tamil and Urdu.

The Forced Marriage Community Pack 

Anti-Slavery Australia

Anti-Slavery Australia provides a comprehensive legal service Australia-wide. Anti-Slavery Australia can provide information about rights and options, legal representation and referral to support services.

Call 02 9514 9660 or go to Anti Slavery Australia.