The senate referred the Crime Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015 to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry and report. Amongst other things, the Bill proposed to expand the definition of ‘forced marriage’ to include circumstances in which a victim does not freely and fully consent because he or she is incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony, and increase the penalties for those who commit a forced marriage offence (Schedule 4).
Anti-Slavery Australia makes this submission regarding Schedule 4 of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015, expressing support for the inclusion of the proposed amendments and their passage as enacted legislation. The proposed amendments welcomed by Anti-Slavery Australia include:
- Proposed amendments of provisions dealing with consent. Anti-Slavery Australia submits that these amendments will increase the protection of the law and further promote the human rights of vulnerable people;
- Proposed amendment to include a rebuttable presumption of incapacity for persons under the age of 16 years. Anti-Slavery Australia submits that the the proposed amendments are consistent with the Marriage Act provisions dealing with recognition of foreign marriages; and
- Proposed amendments to increase penalties for both the standard and aggravated offences.
Anti-Slavery Australia recommends that the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia be broadened to permit the making of protective and preventative orders for order over the age of 18 in relation to forced marriage. Anti-Slavery Australia also submits that there are strong arguments in support of the introduction of a complementary civil framework through amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 and these civil responses would address a number of gaps in victim support and protection where people are at risk of or subject to a forced marriage.