If you have a friend or family member who is being forced into a marriage they do not want, they may find sanction in Australian Law. Australia has recently amended the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act to make it a criminal offence to force another into marriage.
In saying this, what happens if you know someone who has already been pressured to accept, and go through with, a forced marriage?
Forced marriage is defined where one person does not freely and fully consent to the marriage, rather they may be pressured, threatened or deceived.
The Family Court of Australia has seen a rise in the number of forced marriages over the years and has learnt to deal with them on a case by case basis. The case of Nagri v Chapal is a great example of how the Family Court handles cases where children feel compelled to enter a marriage in order to please their guardian/parent.
In this case, a 21-year-old boy was forced into an arranged marriage by his uncle, despite telling him that he was opposed to the idea. Here the Court came to the conclusion that the boy and the uncle’s relationship resembled one of a parent and son. It was clear from the relationship that the boy felt a sense of obligation to obey the uncle, especially since he was financially dependent on the uncle.
By looking at the facts surrounding how the marriage came to be, the Court can conclude that the marriage was a result of duress and pressure put on the boy. Section 23B of the Marriage Act is a great tool to help those who are suffering, as it means your friends and family can declare the marriage as void.
This case was important, as the Court working in favour of the 21-year-old boy also shows how much Australia has progressed. Previously this part of the law focused on forced marriages for those younger than 18.
We are working towards helping those suffering to come forward by showcasing the success stories of those in similar situations. The success in Nagri v Chapal can help your friends or family move forward with their life as a void marriage means that the marriage never happened. In a way, this can be a fresh start that they have been looking for.