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Forced Child Marriage
Transcript of Forced Child Marriage
FORCED CHILD MARRIAGE The goals: What is forced child marriage? Forced child marriage is when one or both partners to a marriage are under 18 years of age and are forced into a marriage they cannot or do not agree to. We are a community legal centre dedicated to addressing human rights issues for children and young people in Australia through legal advocacy and change – the only national community legal centre of its kind in Australia
• To provide information about appropriate support services and advocates Who are we? Lisa, 14 David, 30 I want to
marry you I don't want
to get married Under Australian law, children and young people under the age of 18 cannot agree to marriage. This is because child marriage
denies children and young people
their basic rights and subjects
them to physical, sexual, emotional
and psychological harm. It can negatively affect children's
development and often results in forced sex, early pregnancy, slavery, social isolation and loss of education. Forced child marriage is child abuse and amounts to other serious crimes. What is 'force'? Is forced marriage illegal? Forced marriage is illegal in Australia. A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both partners do not freely and fully agree to the marriage because of the use of coercion, threat or deception.
A forced marriage of a child attracts a severe penalty under criminal law in the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
A forced child marriage also includes other crimes: Child abuse is any action towards a person under 18 that harms them or puts their physical, psychological or emotional health or development at risk. This includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Forced marriage often involves threats, imprisonment, violence, emotional abuse, forced sex, forced pregnancy, and being forced to leave school. These things are all child abuse.
For more information about child abuse, see our Lawstuff page on Child Abuse. Marriage to someone who is under 18 in Australia is illegal. There is a very limited exception in the Marriage Act for a person aged 16 or 17 to marry, but only if a Court carefully examines the situation and makes an order allowing this to happen. Sexual assault is any sexual behaviour, without a person's consent, that causes humiliation, pain, fear or
intimidation, regardless of whether this occurs in a marriage or not. It includes sexual intercourse without consent, incest and unwanted kissing or touching, as well as behaviour that
does not involve actual touching.
If a person is under the age of consent, the law says that they cannot give their permission to have sex. So even if they agree to sex, anyone who has sex with them can be charged with sexual assault.
The age of consent in Australia varies between States and Territories. The age of consent varies between States and Territories. In New South Wales, Northern Territory, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Queensland it is 16 years of age. (But, in Queensland it is a criminal offence to have anal sex with a person who is under 18 years of age.)
In South Australia and Tasmania the age of consent is 17 years of age.
For more information about sexual assault and the age of consent, see our Lawstuff pages on Age of Consent and Sexual Assault. Who can help? Cases of forced child marriage are a child protection matter. This means that the child protection authority in your State or Territory should be contacted as soon as possible.
Child protection authorities provide protection services and advice and work with children and young people to ensure their safety. Force can include physical, sexual, psychological or emotional pressure or abuse. Someone who is forced to marry may be tricked into going overseas, physically threatened and/or emotionally blackmailed into doing so. Forced child marriage can also involve being made to stay home from school, forced to work, or being isolated and controlled in other ways. All of these actions are also crimes. As well as the child protection authorities, there are many other organisations that will protect children and young people faced with the threat or reality of a forced child marriage. Rosie and Hannah the story of... Rosie, 14 Hannah, 14 Rosie and Hannah are in the school playground at lunch time. Rosie tells Hannah that her parents have arranged to take her overseas in a couple of weeks to marry an older relative. Rosie tells Hannah that she doesn’t want to go but is too scared to tell her parents. What could Rosie do? Rosie, and all children and young people, have the right to be safe from all types of violence and harm. If Rosie is in immediate danger of being hurt or abused, she should call the police on the emergency number 000. If she can, she should go to a secure place like to a trusted friend, her school, a police station or a medical centre. If she is going to be sent overseas to be forced into marriage very soon, she can call us on (02) 9385 9588. We can discuss the options we her and connect her to people and services that will keep her safe. She can also contact the Australia Federal Police (AFP) directly. They can be contacted AFP by dialling 000 or 131 237 (131 AFP) if a child or young person is at an Australian airport. The NCYLC
We will provide support and help with any legal questions a child or young person has about forced child marriage and get them in contact with other organisations that can help them.
We can be contacted on:
National Children’s and Youth Law Centre
(02) 9385 9588
http://www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail/send-a-lawmail Child protection authorities
We will also engage the child protection authority in the State or Territory. Child protection authorities provide protection services and advice and will work with the child or young person to ensure their safety.
For direct contact information of each State and Territory's child care and protection authority, see our Lawstuff page on Forced Child Marriage. Definitions Where to get help The law
The child or young person would only be removed from their family as a last resort, if they are considered to be at an immediate risk of serious harm or if it is necessary to keep them safe and unharmed. WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE AUTHORITIES ARE CONTACTED? They can move the child or young person to a safe place, if they are in immediate danger
They can seek a court order to prevent someone from sending the child or young person overseas
If they think there is a chance that the child or young person will be harmed, they will work with them and with other professionals to make sure they are safe. This might include giving them help, counselling information and recommending them to health or other services. If the situation is more serious, they might create a formal safety plan to protect them. Once the authorities are alerted:
Once the information the child or young person has provided has been investigated and once it has been established that the child or young person is safe, their parents may be asked to promise not to force them to marry, or make them travel overseas to do so. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO A VICTIM’S PARENTS OR FAMILY IF THE AUTHORITIES ARE CONTACTED? If someone contacts the police or the child protection authorities, they will investigate what is happening. The information that is given to them is kept confidential, so the people who are forcing the child or young person into a marriage will not be told who contacted them. Rosie's story continued... Rosie tells her school counsellor that she is going to be sent overseas to marry. Her school counsellor arranges for Rosie to stay with her friend Hannah while she contacts child protection authorities and the NCYLC. The NCYLC notifies child protection authorities and together they arrange for a lawyer to apply for a court order preventing Rosie’s parents from taking her out of the country against her will to be married. The court order is granted and the child protection officers assess whether it is safe for Rosie to return home to her family, or whether other accommodation needs to be arranged for Rosie. The child protection officers explain to Rosie's family that it is illegal for them to force Rosie to marry. Rosie moves back home and finishes school. She goes on to pursue further studies at university and is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. If you would like any more information about anything in this presentation or about seeking help, please contact us on
Phone: (02) 9385 9588
Fax: (02) 9385 9589
http://www.lawstuff.org.au/ • To inform children under 18 about the legal implications and harms associated with child marriage Because children and young people under 18 cannot agree to marriage, an attempt to marry a child or young person under 18 will be forced marriage.
The people who are forcing the child or young person to get married are committing a crime. Sexual assault An offence under the Marriage Act 1961 Child abuse We will make sure that the child receives all the services they need, such as:
Counselling and support
Legal advice and representation
Domestic and family violence services
Child protection services