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Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Shayne Neumann MP and Julian Hill MP visited the Sahara Womens Refuge in Brisbane and heard first hand from victims and survivors of dowry related family violence.
The specialist refuge is unique in Australia and supports vulnerable women who have experienced family violence – including numerous cases of dowry related abuse.
Dowry extortion has been recognised as a direct cause of family violence including horrific murders and suicides.
Victims and survivors of dowry-related abuse shared their stories, and ideas for change in family violence legislation, police and service responses, and Australia’s visa and migration system.
“I was thankful to hear these brave women shared their personal stories about the confronting challenges they have faced. The Government must guarantee the integrity of Australia’s migration program and ensure it does not allow this egregious exploitation of vulnerable women to continue,” Mr Neumann said.
Many women who have married Australians but who are living in Australia on temporary visas are not able to access family violence or other support which is an issue requiring further consideration by the Government.
A Senate Inquiry has been established to raise awareness of the issue in the wider community, and has already heard that current laws and responses may need changes such as the inclusion of dowry related abuse as a specified form of abuse in the Family Law Act.
To date the inquiry has received more than 80 submissions from across Australia and the India-Australia community that show the extent of concern and point the way to changes that may be needed in family law, criminal law, migration systems and policing responses.
The inquiry has heard directly from women and support services with horrific stories of abuse, and numerous suggestions for change which would help prevent dowry abuse and family violence, allow women to make more informed decisions when marrying an Australian man, know their rights to seek help and make prosecution easier if things go wrong.
Dowry or ‘bride price’ perpetuates a culture of ownership of women, which runs against the cause of equality, a fundamental value in modern Australia.
“Most Australians would be shocked to learn that marriage has become a lucrative market, with Australian citizenship in effect being sold for $100,000 or more,” Mr Hill said.
Dowry abuse and family violence have a terrible impact on women and families and it is crucial the Government does more to help vulnerable women and families suffering because of dowry abuse.
The final report to the Senate is due in early 2019 and submissions can be made here.
Labor is taking this issue seriously and looks forward to the outcomes of this important inquiry.