Marrying young: an exploratory study of young Muslim women's decision-making around early marriage

Islam Muslim women Marriage Forced marriage Australia
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Marrying young (report) 1.67 MB

This project sought to examine factors leading to young women disengaging from education and employment and to gain a better understanding of the decision-making process for choosing to marry young. It also sought to identify the impact of marrying young on health, psychosocial wellbeing and community participation. The research project engaged 221 Muslim women – young women as well as older women from the community; of these, sixteen Muslim women had experienced forced early marriage. Service sector professionals working directly with Muslim young people or their families were also consulted.

Key findings

  • The value of education for young women increasingly being recognised within the community and young women expected to exercise a great deal of agency over their lives in terms of pursuing education, career and other life aspirations.
  • Socio-economic, religious, community and familial expectations and pressures continue to preserve an early marriage pathway as the most important option available to young Muslim women.
  • Young women experienced significant barriers to informed decisionmaking in relation to early marriage. Additionally, many young women had limited access to the information and support required to understand and pursue vocational options and other personal aspirations.
  • All research participants who had been forced into early marriage identified the practice as harmful.
  • Young women wanted tailored support and capacity building programs, and importantly more targeted support by schools in relation to education and employment pathways.


  1. Women's leadership program - that a women’s leadership program is developed and established engaging younger and older Muslim women to enable discussions in safe spaces.
  2. Vocational advice - that a tailored educational/vocational advice program is established in schools that recognise the unique challenges young Muslim women face and the potential consequences for young women who do not have educational or vocational options.
  3. Legal rights awareness - that legal education and legal rights-awareness programs are developed for Muslim youth and delivered in safe settings that enable young people to engage and learn in an empowering way.
  4. Muslim women's network - that a network of successful Muslim women is established as role models for young Muslim women.
  5. Community education - that a community education initiative be rolled out for the Muslim community on early and forced marriage, with special emphasis on both federal and state laws that potentially impact on the marriage of young women and men.
  6. Parenting programs - that parenting programs targeted to Muslim communities adopt a strengths-based approach.
  7. Professional development - that a professional development program is developed for teachers, caseworkers and other professionals working directly with young Muslim women.
  8. Specialist services funding - that specialist services within the affected communities are recognised and adequately funded to support young Muslim women and their mothers, particularly those at risk of early and forced marriage.



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