Forced marriages, and whether Australia needs tougher controls to prevent them, are on the Federal Government's agenda this week as comment is sought from the public about prevention measures.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for Justice Brendan O'Connor yesterday (22 November) invited members of the public to give their views on whether stronger measures are needed to address the practice of forced or servile marriage within Australia.
"The government is committed to ensuring there are laws in place to protect individuals who have been forced into a marriage and to punish those responsible," McClelland said.
"Servile or forced marriage generally refers to situations in which a person is considered a chattel that can be sold, transferred or inherited into marriage.
"It is a crime that can cause significant damage to a victim."
The government is inviting comment on a discussion paper which outlines a range of possible legislative and non-legislative measures that could be implemented, including new, specific offences targeting those who force another person into marriage, profit from trafficking individuals into a marriage, or coerce or use threats to bring about a marriage; the use of civil remedies, such as protection orders, which can be used by a court to protect victims and people at risk of forced or servile marriage; and public education, professional training, and community engagement strategies.
The discussion paper has been released ahead of the National Roundtable on People Trafficking, which will be held on 24 November 2010.
The Roundtable will bring together peak non-government organisations and industry bodies, as well as key government agencies, to discuss these issues and consider how the government can best respond to this problem and address the needs of victims.
"The practice of forced or servile marriage is completely unacceptable," O'Connor said.
"It takes away a person's freedom and autonomy and makes that person vulnerable to further terrible abuses within that marriage."
The discussion paper can be obtained on the Attorney-General's Department website at www.ag.gov.au/forcedandservilemarriage
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