General policy statement
In New Zealand, the marriageable age is 18 years of age. Marriage is illegal under the age of 16 years. However 16 and 17 year olds who wish to marry can do so with parental consent. This occurs on average about 80 times each year, with 80% of those 16 and 17 year olds being female.
This Bill has arisen out of the concern that some 16 and 17 year olds may be undergoing forced marriage. This Bill proposes that 16 and 17 year olds who wish to marry must apply to the court, and sets out how the court is to consider the application.
A forced marriage is a marriage where 1 or both people do not (or in the case of some people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. A forced marriage may not be limited to 16 and 17 year olds.
An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner, but the choice of whether to enter the marriage is left to both people who are parties to the intended marriage.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence, and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel as if they are bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking a person’s wages or not giving the person any money) can also be a factor.