New legal amendments passed by the Australian parliament today will make forced marriages a criminal offence and make it easier for victims in slavery, forced labour and forced marriage trials to be compensated through the court process. Slavery is already illegal in Australia but changes to the criminal code today will offer extra protection to people who are coerced into working against their will, often by way of threats or passport confiscation. “The bill is historic,” said Professor Jennifer Burn, director of Anti-Slavery Australia, a specialist law and research centre based at the University of Technology, Sydney. The bill, titled the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2012, makes forced marriage a crime punishable by a jail sentence of four to seven years.

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