Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is when 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.

Forced marriage is a slavery-like practice,
a form of gender-based violence and an abuse of human rights.

Wedding Dress of Tears

ACRATH remains committed to eliminating forced marriage by:

  • raising awareness leading to action
  • acting regionally and nationally
  • working for systemic change, locally and globally
  • advocating with government
  • collaborating with counter trafficking networks

In 2013 the Crimes Legislation Ammendment Act inserted forced marriage into the Australian Criminal Code.  During the 2022/2023 financial year, the AFP received 90 reports of forced marriage. (Source:  Australian Federal Police)

(Please note that the materials developed by ACRATH listed on this page have been specifically designed for an adult workplace context. ACRATH strongly recommends that these materials not be accessed by school-aged students. Thank you.)

ACRATH AWARENESS RAISING AND EDUCATION MATERIALS

ACRATH has developed supporting awareness-raising and education materials for workplace professionals including

Education –    Secondary school teachers, student welfare staff and support staff

Healthcare – Midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals

Frontline Professionals –

Those who may encounter people in, or at risk of, forced marriage during their professional duties e.g., Child Protection professionals, police, multicultural agencies, settlement organisations

 

MY RIGHTS - MY FUTURE FORCED MARRIAGE

In 2015, with a small grant from the Federal Government, ACRATH  developed curriculum resources - along with school support documents - for all Government, Catholic and Independent secondary schools across Australia. These materials form the Kit: My Rights – My Future forced marriage, the purpose of which is prevention-focused awareness-raising and education – vital components of Australia’s strategy to combat forced marriage. The Kit was designed and developed to help educate students about Australia’s (2013) forced marriage legislation - through curriculum materials targetted at students aged 14 – 18 years. It was first published online in 2016 and has been updated in June 2020.

The Kit was developed for teachers and support staff. The learning and teaching materials have specifically been designed to be engaging and interactive. The materials are culturally and socially inclusive in their design, and are age and developmental-stage appropriate in nature. The need for sensitivity of school staff is highlighted throughout the Kit, as is the need for understanding the complexity of the practice of forced marriage. Cultural and family respect is a key underpinning of the materials in the Kit, but the safety of the person is always the over-riding priority.

By empowering our young people – through a prevention focus - with the knowledge and skills of how to navigate their way through the risks of forced marriage, we are in the best position to enable them to advocate for their rights and the rights of others.

The My Rights – My Future forced marriage Kit is structured as follows:

  • Introductory Information – primarily related to what led to the Kit’s development; the background to the Project. This section also includes background information about the practice of forced marriage, from both a global and national context, along with information related to Australian legislation.
  • A clear Rationale for the Project and the production of the Secondary Schools Kit and the Learning & Teaching materials contained within
  • A Guide to Learning and Teaching – planning for effective learning about the practice of forced marriage in Australia, using methods that promote growth in knowledge, understanding and action
  • Unit of Study – 15 Learning Sessions documented for teachers, from which they can make selections based on their student cohort. Following the Learning Sessions outlines, all required resources have been provided so that teachers have the opportunity to select those that will be used to formulate an online, digital resource booklet for students, if that is their preferred method.
  • Extensive Appendices Section  - In this section of the Kit, we have provided a set of recommended protocols for schools around the referral of suspected cases of forced marriage.

It is envisaged that through an understanding that forced marriage is never acceptable, and always illegal in Australia, and that there are support agencies and services available for those in – and at risk of – forced marriage - that the incidence of forced marriage in young people may be reduced, now and into the future.

 

DO YOU NEED SUPPORT OR ADVICE ABOUT FORCED MARRIAGE?

ACRATH strongly recommends using  Anti-Slavery Australia's purpose-developed mybluesky.org.au website. This website is a go-to resource should you have questions about forced marriage in Australia . Spending time navigating the mybluesky website provides an excellent learning experience; familiarisation with the resources on the website is most important for those working with victim/survivors.

The MY BLUE SKY website also contains a guide for frontline workers - https://mybluesky.org.au/frontline-worker-guide

 

FORCED MARRIAGE COMMUNITY PACK

The Australian Government, in partnership with the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery's Communication and Awareness Working Group, has developed a forced marriage community pack.

The pack provides information and resources on forced marriage and is available to download below:

To access these documents in other languages click here.

 

GUIDANCE FOR CLERGY AND MARRIAGE CELEBRANTS

On 27 February 2013 the Australian Parliament enacted legislation to strengthen the capacity of investigators and prosecutors to combat all forms of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, including by introducing new offences of forced marriage.

The legislation includes two offences of forced marriage:

  • causing another person to enter into a forced marriage, and
  • being a party to a forced marriage (this offence does not apply to the victim of a forced marriage).

Both offences have penalties of a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment, or nine years’ imprisonment in the case of an aggravated offence (for example, where the victim is less than 18 years old, or the offender subjects the victim to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment). If a celebrant suspects that they may be involved in a forced marriage they should contact the Australian Federal Police or their local police immediately.

The Attorney General's Department of the Australian Government issued Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Authorised Marriage Celebrants. The most recent guidelines were issued in July 2018. Sections 8.6 and 12.4 have specific references regarding the responsibility of clergy and marriage celebrants with regard to forced marriage. Access the guidelines here.

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