Forced marriage is set to become a criminal offence by the end of this year. As the Senate prepares to debate the issue and is expected to pass measures to change the law to protect its victims, mojoinvestigates how the issue affects both migrants and Australian citizens, and looks into government plans to curb forced marriage.
By NIMA GREEN
YOUNG girls, some only 12 years old, are being forced by the threat of violence and social damnation into marriages with men they may never have met. The idea seems alien and abhorrent in Australia. Yet it is an undisputed fact that this happens across the country – both to migrants and Australian citizens.
In response, the Federal Government’s Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 proposes to make forced and servile marriage a criminal offence.
It is scheduled for debate in the Senate within weeks and, with Government and Opposition backing, is expected to become law by the end of the year.
Evidence given to the Senate Committee debating the Bill makes it clear that the incidence of forced marriage in Australia is an “unknown factor”. But anecdotal evidence suggests a significant number of cases, though the issue is shrouded in secrecy is driven underground.
One such case is Samia’s story.
Samia* (*not her real name) sits on a hospital bed in Melbourne’s north. Alone, facing the wall, she stares blankly ahead.
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Freelance article for MOJO, on 17th October 2012.