This factsheet examines forced marriage.
WHAT IS FORCED MARRIAGE?
The term ‘forced marriage’ is not defined. However, a forced marriage is understood to be where a marriage is entered into without the full and free consent of one or both parties, as a result of physical or psychological pressure or abuse.
The international definition of trafficking in persons in the United Nations Trafficking Protocol covers trafficking for the purpose of exploiting people in ‘practices similar to slavery’.
The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery 1956 states ‘practices similar to slavery’ include:
(c) Any institution or practice whereby:
(i) A woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or
(ii) The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or
(iii) A woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person.
These institutions and practices are known as a servile marriage.
While women are more likely to be the victims of forced marriage, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons recommends updating the definition of forced or servile marriage in the 1956 Supplementary Convention ‘to include practices in which both women/girls and men/boys can be the subject of forced or servile marriage.
Forced marriage can happen in the context of human trafficking.
Australian laws do not currently protect people from forced marriage. As this fact sheet explains, it is unclear whether the trafficking offences in the Criminal Code cover trafficking for forced marriage. This problem could be fixed by amending the definition of ‘exploitation’ to specifically include ‘practices similar to slavery’ or ‘forced or servile marriage’.