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Forced Marriage in Australia - Policy Paper by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand

On 20th February, marking the UN World Day of Social Justice, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand released a policy paper addressing the issue of forced marriage in Australia.

A forced marriage is where a marriage is entered into without the full and free consent of one or both parties, as a result of threats, deception or coercion. Forced marriage occurs in Australia and some Australians may be trafficked overseas for forced marriages. The paper reports that in the 2014-2015 financial year, 28 per cent of the 93 investigations into human trafficking undertaken by the Australian Federal Police Human Trafficking Teams were related to allegations of forced marriage.

The paper looks at the existing support framework for forced marriage victims, which includes the Support for Trafficked People Program provided by the Australian Red Cross which is available for survivors referred by the Australian Federal Police. The paper notes that the existing framework is under strain and needs improvement.

In the paper, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand proposes the establishment of a dedicated service system to provide support to victims of forced marriage and calls for more government funding to complement the current criminal response and the associated support.

The paper also argues that the continued strengthening of prevention efforts is critical in eliminating forced marriage and that this requires more research into the prevalence and nature of forced marriage, and ongoing efforts to raise community awareness on the issue.

In February 2012, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand commissioned Anti-Slavery Australia in partnership with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney to prepare an evidence-based review in relation to labour rights for women and girls in Australia. The review examined emerging areas of concern and focused on, amongst other things, women who migrate through forced marriage. The review similarly stressed the importance of more research into forced marriage and the importance of raising community awareness on the issue. Read the review here: Hidden Exploitation: Women in forced labour, marriage and migration.

We welcome this research focus by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand on the crime of forced marriage, a human rights violation which continues to puts girls and young women at risk of physical harm, trafficking, isolation, early or forced pregnancy, imprisonment, mental health issues, even death. Read the paper here: Forced Marriage in Australia: Policy Position Paper.


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