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Inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia

Anti-Slavery Australia welcomes the report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia.


Anti-Slavery Australia is seeing an increasing number of victims of dowry abuse in Australia.


Dowry abuse may include coercive demands for multiple and/or excessive dowry payments from a woman and her family. Such demands may be accompanied by emotional and economic abuse, harassment or stalking and acts of violence perpetuated upon the woman and her family, including honour killing, murder and suicide. In severe cases, dowry abuse may constitute a slavery-like offence.


The terms of reference for the inquiry required the Committee to examine the practice and incidence of dowry abuse in Australia, with particular reference to cultural attitudes, the appropriateness and impacts of the practice of dowry in Australia, reports of dowry abuse including links to family violence, forced marriage and slavery-like offences, how the family law system deals with dowry and dowry abuse, the adequacy of Australia’s migration law system, training and reporting regimes and the adequacy of state and territory and federal laws in preventing dowry abuse.


Anti-Slavery Australia was among 84 parties that provided a written submission, a copy of which can be accessed here.

Professor Jennifer Burn, Director of Anti-Slavery Australia, was also invited to provide oral evidence at the hearing in Sydney on 30 November 2018.

Anti-Slavery Australia’s written and oral submissions are referenced with favour throughout the Report. For example, the Committee referred to Professor Burn’s explanation regarding the relationship between dowry abuse and slavery-like offences, quoting:


“…the capacity of a person to treat a complainant as a commodity, as an object of sale and purchase, may be a powerful indicator that there is a case of slavery…”


Of the 8 recommendations put forth by Anti-Slavery Australia, 7 of those recommendations were reflected in the final recommendations endorsed by the Committee.


The final recommendations include:

  1. That ‘economic abuse’ be included as a form a family violence in subsection 4AB(2) of the Family Law Act 1975, and be defined to include dowry abuse;
  2. Australian government to work with the states and territories to harmonise existing legislation providing for intervention/violence orders so as to explicitly recognise dowry abuse as an example of family violence or economic abuse;
  3. Australian government to give further consideration to legal and decision making frameworks to ensure that victims of dowry abuse are not disadvantaged in family law property settlements;
  4. Australian government to give further consideration to the recommendation of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence to broaden the definition of family violence in the Migration Regulations 1994 and ensure that victims of forced marriage or family violence are protected through the family violence provisions in the Migration Regulations 1994;
  5. Australian government to act to address the injustice whereby family violence protection is not available to victims on many temporary visas and consider extending the family violence provisions or creating a new temporary visa;
  6. Australian government to ensure decision makers consider the nature of alleged family violence when making an assessment on whether the relationship was genuine prior to it ending;
  7. Australian government to consider innovative use of the sponsorship mechanism and the new family sponsorship framework to prevent previous perpetrators from sponsoring multiple spouses and ensure that the work of the Department of Home Affairs is included in National Family Violence Prevention Strategies;
  8. Australian government to work with the states and territories to improve and strengthen the governance of data collection practices by implementing a system to capture and measure the extent and incidence of all forms of family violence in Australia, including dowry abuse;
  9. That the Department of Social Services Family Safety Pack be provided to all visa applicants in their first language;
  10. Australian government and state and territory governments to engage with stakeholders in order to develop ongoing education and awareness raising campaigns about family violence, including dowry abuse, in conjunction with the development of further training of frontline professionals; and
  11. Australian government to include dowry abuse as a possible indicator of exploitation for the purposes of divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 and ensure that this is included in any training programs.


In addition to enhancing knowledge and awareness surrounding the culturally complex practice of dowry, the Report marks an important step towards protecting victims by developing a coordinated, national response to dowry abuse.

Read the full Report HERE

 

 

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